The history of whaling as an industry has been well-told in books, but none has shared the stories of whaling’s leaders of color in an era when the only other option was slavery. Working with archival records at whaling museums, in libraries, from private archives and interviews with people whose ancestors were whaling masters, Skip Finley now profiles the lives of over 50 black whaling captains. Whaling was one of the first American industries to exhibit diversity. A man became a captain not because he was white or well connected, but because he knew how to kill a whale. Along the way, he could learn navigation and reading and writing. Whaling presented a tantalizing alternative to mainland life. At last, the stories of these captains’ success – of why, how, and their historical impact – are being told.