Long Island's Black whaling history on display in Cold Spring Harbor

The exhibition includes pictures, artifacts and interactive displays that highlight the history of whaling and the contributions of Black whalers and their families.

Thema Ponton

Feb 29, 2024, 3:51 AM

Updated 49 days ago

Share:

A special exhibition at The Whaling Museum & Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor showcases the history of Black men and women who were part of Long Island's whaling industry.
It's called From Sea to Shining Sea: Whalers of the African Diaspora.
Dr. Georgette Grier-Key is the guest curator of the exhibition.
"A lot of the wealth that built this community came from the whaling dollars," said Grier-Key.
The exhibition includes pictures, artifacts and interactive displays that highlight the history of whaling and the contributions of Black whalers and their families.
"Many of the African American whalers that went on whaling ships, it was a way to escape from slavery, a way to escape from segregation and Jim Crow and sometimes the only means of making a good living for yourself," Grier-Key said.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is a Pyrruss Concer painting by artist Hulbert Waldroup. It's made with part of an old wooden ship and bears images of Concer, a slave who eventually gained his freedom and became a legendary whaler.
"He was someone that was born to an enslaved mother in Southampton but went all the way up to be a philanthropist in the community of Southampton," said Grier-Key.
Concer also donated the sale of his estate to multiple charities, according to Grier-Key, including establishing an education fund for the First Presbyterian Church of Southampton and a fund for the widows of whalers.
Concer is also part of the exhibition's Whaling Hall of Fame, which includes notable people who were also whalers, like Crispus Attucks, Paul Cuffee and Frederick Douglass.
"We don't always realize that he (Frederick Douglass) was a whaler and that's how he actually escaped," Grier-Key says.
One interactive part of the exhibition is copies of wanted ads for escaped slaves. Visitors can take them off the wall and read through them.
Some places slaves were being searched for included East Hampton, South Hampton, Huntington and Smithtown.
Grier-Key said the exhibition is not just about highlighting the history of Black whalers on Long Island, but also the lasting impact of their contributions.
"It speaks about the resiliency and what they were able to amass and do in their own lifetime," said Grier-Key.
The whaling exhibition is on view at The Whaling Museum & Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor through September 2024.


More from News 12