A Salute to African-American Mariners

The Maritime Administration salutes African-Americans who served in wartime in the U.S. Merchant Marine and U.S. Maritime Service.

African-Americans served in every capacity aboard merchant ships, at a time when the United States Army and Navy employed policies of racial restriction and segregation. For example, at the beginning of World War II, African-Americans could serve only as messmen in the Navy.

To read more on the efforts of war time African-Americans in maritime service please visit the links below.

Click to read the story of wartime black mariner, James R. Europe.
The Story of a Wartime African-American Mariner
A Summary of the career of James R. Europe, a mariner during World War II and one of the first African-Americans to receive officer training at the U.S. Maritime Service Training School.
The First African-American Shipmaster
The story of Captain Hugh Mulzac, one of the first African-Americans to serve as ship’s officer, served during World War I and II, and was the first African-American to captain a ship, the Liberty Ship Booker T. Washington.
Click to read the story of the First African-American Shipmaster.
Click to read about a Landmark Liberty Ship - The Booker T. Washington
A Landmark Liberty Ship
The story of the first Liberty Ship to be named in honor of an African-American, the Booker T. Washington, captained by Hugh Mulzac.
First African-American Graduate of U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
The story of Joseph B. Williams, the first African-American to graduate from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, in 1944.
Click to read the story of Joseph Willams, the first African-American to graduate from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
Click to read the story of William Tillman and the S.J. Waring
A Story of High Seas Heroism
The story of the S.J. Waring, a schooner that had been captured by the Confederates early in the Civil War but was re-taken by William Tillman, who led a small group of passengers in an assault on the small crew left on board.
Before They Were Famous
The stories of notable African-Americans who participated in this country’s marine industry.
Click to read about notable African-Americans who participated in this country's marine industry
— All photos are used courtesy of the U.S. War Shipping Commission, the Maritime Administration, —
— the National Archives and the U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command —