June 6 - 1855: Nantucket's Black sea captain dies

1888: Sixty-foot right whale slaughtered off Provincetown. 1969: RFK assassinated
Captain Absalom Boston died on this day in 1855.

1855: Honored Black Whaling Captain dies on Nantucket

700 Black Americans once worked on the whaling fleet

On this day in 1855, Captain Absalom Boston of Nantucket died. In an era when many African Americans worked as seamen, Absalom Boston stood out. In 1822 he captained an all-black crew on the whaleship Industry. That was but one unusual aspect of the voyage.

Captains were usually respected but rarely liked. Boston's crew, however, had such a positive attitude toward him that they memorialized him in a ballad.

He was a leader aboard ship and on land. When he retired from whaling, he combined a successful business with work on behalf of the island's black community. Although Absalom Boston had helped to integrate the island's public schools, when he died as a respected man of 70, he was buried in a segregated cemetery.

A black man had a better chance for promotion, more responsibility, and the potential for better pay on a whaleship than on a merchant vessel.

A black owner of a boardinghouse for seamen noted that on a whaleship, "A coloured man is only known and looked upon as a man, and is promoted in rank according to his ability and skill to perform the same duties as the white man."

When the whaling industry was at its height in the mid-1800s, approximately 700 black men were either harpooners or officers on American whaleships. A few, like Absalom Boston, sailed as captains.

1888: Resurgence of whaling spells doom for Right Whales in late 19th century

6-5-8-ptown-right-whale_436

On this day in 1888, the nation's newspapers reported that on the previous day, a 60 foot long Right Whale was killed off the Cape and brought into the newly built tryworks station at Herring Cove in Provincetown for oil and bone extraction.

The news stories reported that the whaling steamer A. B. Nickerson had killed the large right whale the day before.

They said it was the largest Right Whale ever captured near the Cape - the whale was nearly 60 feet long and had 1,500 pounds of bone worth between $3,000 and $4,000...

Whaling in these parts was mostly centered in Nantucket, but late in the 19th century there was a resurgence of it in Provincetown and whaling works were built in the Herring Cove area to accommodate the increased trade.

(On the right: This is a typical whaling steamer of the era with a dead whale in the foreground.)

1968: Robert F. Kennedy assassinated in Los Angeles

On this day in 1968 Robert F. Kennedy, a United States Senator and brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, died at a Los Angeles hospital after being shot shortly after midnight the day before in Los Angeles, California.

After winning the California and South Dakota primary elections for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, Kennedy was shot as he walked through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel and died in the Good Samaritan Hospital twenty-six hours later.

Kennedy was his elder brother right-hand man and campaign manager during JFK's successful run  for the Presidency in 1960.

Kennedy was his elder brother right-hand man and campaign manager during JFK's successful run for the Presidency in 1960.

He was the United States Attorney General from January 1961 until September 3, 1964, when he resigned to run for election to the United States Senate. He took office as Senator from New York on January 3, 1965.

The approach of the 1968 presidential election saw the incumbent president, Lyndon B. Johnson, serving during a period of social unrest. There were riots in the major cities despite Johnson's attempts to introduce anti-poverty and anti-discrimination legislation, and there was significant opposition to the ongoing military action in Vietnam.

The 1968 presidential primary elections in California were held on Tuesday, June 4. Four hours after the polls closed in California, Kennedy claimed victory in the state's Democratic presidential primary. At approximately 12:10 a.m. PDT, he addressed his campaign supporters in the Ambassador Hotel's Embassy Room ballroom where he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian immigrant.

At the time, the government provided Secret Service protection for incumbent presidents but not for presidential candidates. Kennedy's only security was provided by former FBI agent William Barry and two unofficial bodyguards, former professional athletes.

As with his brother's death, Robert Kennedy's assassination and the circumstances surrounding it have spawned a variety of conspiracy theories. As of 2012 Kennedy remains one of only two sitting United States Senators to be assassinated, the other being Louisiana's U.S. Senator Huey Long.

(Above: RFK lays dying in an LA ballroom in 1968, Courtesy of Dalibor Krch on Wiki Commons.)


CapeCodToday.com welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on CapeCodToday.com.