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Enslaved Ship Pilots: Challenging Notions of Race and Slavery along the Peripheries of the Revolutionary Atlantic World

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Chapter Summary

Pilot's specialized knowledge of coastal hydrography was key to overseas shipping; connecting plantations to overseas markets and colonies to the metropolis, protecting the prosperity of plantation slavery and expansion of national and imperial power. Pilots traded belittling terrestrial conditions endured by black people in the white-dominated Atlantic world for personal freedoms alien to plantation and urban slaves. This chapter considers how enslaved pilots used coastal waters in the Anglophone-Americas during the Revolutionary-Era as a cultural and political space to invert racial/social valuations and gain uncommon privileges. It places pilots in an Atlantic context to examine how captives in discrete societies similarly exchanged environmental and nautical wisdom for lives of privileged exploitation. The Revolutionary Period afforded pilots with greater opportunities. The chapter differentiates between maritime zones to demonstrate how hydrography affected human experiences. Scholarship on maritime bondage is typically linked to terrestrial slavery within its respective society.

Keywords: black people; hydrography; maritime zones; revolutionary Atlantic world; ship pilots; slavery



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