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Explore the Constellation

Through Ebony Eyes: Preserving the Legacy of Blacks on the Chesapeake

Labor

Since 1865, African American watermen have worked on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia. Oystering, crabbing, and fishing have been essential to their livelihood, often supplemented by farming and factory work. Despite harsh weather and arduous labor, they became highly skilled and successful watermen, who maneuvered the dead rise and the skipjack as well as the schooners and bugeyes that transported seafood, farm supplies, lumber, and produce to markets along the Bay. African Americans were also boat builders, sail makers, blacksmiths, and owners of seafood processing plants. Most of the workers in the seafood plants were African American women.