“The Atlantic Ocean brought Blacks to the slave blocks, the Pacific Ocean brought them to freedom…”
Throughout the age of sail, black hands maneuvered white sails traversing the ocean waterways. Many Black men used the oceans as their underground railroads. When the first black men arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in the late 1700s, they were greeted by the native Hawaiians who lived in grass huts scattered sparsely throughout the lush valleys and along the shoreline. During the late 1700s and early 1800s, many people of African ancestry came to Hawai’i aboard merchant and whaling ships. These individuals brought with them skills including masonry, barbering, carpentry, stewarding, and tailoring. Acting as administrators and interpreters for the monarchy, some served as advisors to King Kamehameha I, who welcomed black men from around the world to the Hawaiian Islands. Others became entrepreneurs, musicians, and small businessmen serving foreigners. Nantucket Quaker seamen also made the whaling industry a thriving business. At a time when Africans were still being sold into slavery, Yankee whalers signed on African Portuguese from the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, Blacks from the Caribbean, and Black Americans as seamen, whose service took them across the face of the earth, across the Pacific, and into the Hawaiian Islands. Since the 1770s, the islands have been home to people of African descent, who have made tremendous contributions to Hawai’i for over two centuries.