Portait of Captain William T. Shorey and family, Oakland, CA 1898.
William T. Shorey (1859-1919) was a famous captain in the last days of whaling. He was born in Barbados, the son of a Scottish sugar planter and an Indian creole woman. Shorey began seafaring as a teenager and in 1876 he made his first whaling voyage.
Whaling brought him to California and he married the daughter from a leading African American family in San Francisco. In 1886 he became the only black West Coast ship captain. Known for his skill and leadership, Shorey experienced many adventures and dangers at sea with multiracial crews before his retirement in 1908.
Over time, larger, steam-powered vessels took the place of obsolete sailing ships and black seamen were forced to accept inferior employment on ships as cooks and stewards. The era of significant participation by blacks in whaling ended in 1923 when the Wanderer went aground off Nantucket, MA.