February 19, 2021
Ferry Facts: Black Mariners
Honoring Black MarinersIn honor of Black History Month, we're taking a look at a few of the patriotic Black Mariners who served on the seas in development and defense of our country. Below is a look at eight of the many whose stories are intertwined with the nation's military history, growth of the nation, and the ongoing struggle for racial justice in the United States.
Doris "Dorie" Miller. Waco, TX.
Miller served on board the battleship West Virginia as a US Navy Cook Third Class. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, where he lost his life, he manned an anti-aircraft gun and shot down several Japanese planes despite having no training on the gun. He also assisted several of the severely wounded, including the ship's captain, to safety. He is the first Black American to receive the Navy Cross, the second highest service decoration for valor in combat.
First Diving School Graduate
Carl Bashear, Tonieville, KY.
Bashear was a US Navy Master Chief Petty Officer serving as a master diver despite a leg amputation from a service wound in 1966. The film Men of Honor starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. is based on his life. He enlisted in the Navy in 1948 after it was desegregated by President Truman and was the first African-American to attend and graduate Diving and Salvage School, based in Bayonne, NJ. He received the Navy & Marine Corps Medal, Commendation Medal, and Achievement Medal.
First Revolutionary War Casualty Crispus Attucks, Framingham, MA.
The son of a slave, Attucks is believed to have escaped slavery himself. He was the first casualty in the American Revolution fighting the British at the Boston Massacre. He worked the docks in Boston, MA and was also a sailor under threat as a colonial mariner to be conscripted into the British Navy.
His body was laid in state at Faneuil Hall and city leaders waived segregation laws to bury Attucks with his fellow fallen. The British soldiers responsible for Attucks and the other colonists death in the Boston Massacre were famously defended by John Adams as part of ongoing American tradition that everyone is entitled to a defense. Marine Innovator
James Forten, Philadelphia, PA. 1766-1842.
Forten was known in his later years as an ardent Abolitionist and one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in Philadelphia, owning one of the city's most successful sail lofts at Penns Landing on the Delaware River. He developed a tool that allowed his loft to easily maneuver large sails being manufactured for the ships of the day.
He served in the Revolutionary War at age 14 aboard the private vessel Royal Louis, one of several privateers used for naval combat to support the new Continental Navy. He was captured by the British and became a POW on the HMS Jersey before being transported to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. When released, he walked home to Philadelphia and began work landside supporting the maritime industry.
First Ship Master
Hugh Mulzac, British West Indies 1886-1971.
Considered America's first African-American ship master, Mulzac was born into a family that built whaling ships and schooners in the Caribbean. He started his sea life on British schooners and emigrated to the U.S. in 1918 where he earned his shipping master's certificate in the Merchant Marine, the first ever issued to an African-American. Although he qualified as a captain, he was not offered a berth for 20 years due to discrimination and first worked as a steward.
In WWII, at age 56, he was offered and initially refused command of the SS Booker T. Washington when he insisted on an integrated crew. He eventually was offered the position under his terms and became the first Black Officer to command an integrated ship. He was a strong labor leader and was black listed during McCarthyism.
Union Civil War Navy Hero
John Lawson, Philadelphia, PA. 1837-1919.
Lawson enlisted in the U.S. Navy to fight for the Union during the Civil War. He was injured at the Battle of Mobile Bay while serving aboard the USS Hartford, and received the Navy's Medal of Honor for, while wounded, continuing to supply the Hartford's guns. The Hartford is the ship where Rear Admiral David Farragut famously had himself tied to the mast to better view the battle. Lawson also received the Navy Grand Army of the Republic Medal.
First Warship Named
Leonard Roy Harmon, Cuero, TX. 1917-1942.
Harmon as an American sailor who enlisted in the Navy at age 22 to serve during WWII as a Mess Attendant, the only open position to Black sailors at the time. Harmon died in action on board the USS San Franscisco in GuadalcanaI. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, received three battle stars, and is the first African-American to have a US Warship named after him. The USS Harmon was commissioned in 1943 transiting the Panama Canal with the 3rd fleet. The vessel ended her years after decommissioning with the North American Smelting Company, Wilmington, DE.
Spanish-American War Hero
Robert Penn, City Point, VA. 1872-1912.
Penn served as a Fireman First Class in the US Navy on the USS Iowa during the Spanish-American War. He was awarded the Navy's highest military decoration -- the Medal of Honor -- for his actions off the coast of Cuba after a boiler accident.
Eco-Options to Rock Salt. It's been a tough week with freezing rain, sleet and ice forming over fallen snow. The go-to safety fix has historically been Rock Salt, which can be harsh on pet's paws, pavements and the environment. Here's an article on some alternatives generally available at local hardware stores including Magic Salt and others with the words "safe paw" in their titles. Additional natural alternatives include sand, ashes, and white vinegar solutions. Make sure to read up on best uses and formulas to get the right mixtures for your home use.