Saturday, January 21, 2017

Male & Female Slaves & the North Carolina Fishing Industry

In North Carolina & other coastal colonies, slaves served as fishermen & fish processors for their owners.  Usually males fished, & females prepared the catch for market or export.  Between 1800 & the Civil War, African Americans composed approximately 45 percent of the total population in North Carolina's 19 tidewater counties. They made up nearly 60 percent of the total population in its largest seaports. Along the Albemarle Sound, prodigious gangs of black fishermen wielded mile-and-a-half-long seines in what was the largest herring fishery in North America.  Slaves at Shell Castle Island, a shoal at Ocracoke Inlet, ranged up & down the Outer Banks with their nets in pursuit of jumping mullet & bottlenosed dolphins.  The shad & herring fishery along the Albemarle Sound had only one comparable cousin, off the Chesapeake Bay, and the commercial mullet fishery between Bear Inlet & Ocracoke Inlet was unique. But slave fishing and boating were a deeply imbedded and important part of plantation life throughout the southern seacoast.  During this period, the slave plantations of the West Indies became the largest market for American fish.

Sein Fishing in North Carolina, Harper's Weekly (Sept. 28, 1861), p. 620.


Night Fishing in North Carolina 1861.Harper's Weekly (Sept. 28, 1861), p. 621


Fish Processing in North Carolina 1861, Harper's Weekly (Sept. 28, 1861), p.621

See: David S. Cecelski.  The Waterman's Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina.  University of North Carolina Press. 2001

Vickers, Daniel. Farmers and Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1850. Chapel Hill and London: Published for the Institute of Early American history and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia by the University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.