Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2016


The Royal Navy has been portrayed as an institution that embodied liberty, regularlyemploying and relying upon blacks to keep its vessels afloat and to implement Britain'sblue water policy. Despite the critical role black naval seamen played, their employmentwas shaped more by regional practices than by Admiralty edicts. The result was that blackswere often treated inequitably. Black seamen had less access to pension benefits andwere not promoted in the same numbers as working-class white seamen. In England andNew York, blacks were largely kept out of royal dockyards and received less favourablecompensation than whites. In contrast, while blacks were employed in great numbers inthe slave-based economies of Antigua and Senegambia, they were largely barred fromhighly skilled maritime artisan work. In sum, blacks' experiences in the Royal Navy werevaried and were more influenced by local conditions than by edicts from London.