Capt. Absalom Boston

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Absalom F. Boston

Birthplace: Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States
Death: June 06, 1855 (69-70)
Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Seneca Boston and Thankful Boston
Husband of Mary Boston; Phebe Boston and Hannah C. Boston
Father of Charles Boston; Henry Boston; Caroline Clough; Infant Boston; Phebe Ann Boston and 4 others
Brother of Freeborn Boston; Reuben Boston; Thomas Boston; Hannah Boston and Joseph Boston

Occupation: Mariner, entrepreneur, civic leader
Managed by: Erica Howton
Last Updated:

About Capt. Absalom Boston

Absalom Boston (1785-1855) was a United States mariner who was the first African American captain to sail a whaleship with an all-black crew. He was born on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, And although he had helped to integrate the island's public schools, when he died as a respected man of 70, he was buried in a segregated cemetery. - Mass Moments: Captain Absalom Boston Dies on Nantucket

When the schooner Industry set out from Nantucket in 1822 its captain and crew sailed into history. At the helm was Absalom F. Boston, a Nantucket native and the first known African-American to command an all-black crew aboard a whaling ship. A crew member wrote:

Boston returned to Nantucket after the voyage to become a prominent member of Nantucket s African-American community. Becoming a prosperous innkeeper and property owner on the island, Boston was eventually involved with another historic event. In 1845 Absalom Boston and his daughter led a successful court case to desegregate the Nantucket school system. Although slavery was not abolished on Nantucket Island until 1773, an earlier court case involving Boston's uncle did much to officially end Nantucket slaveholding. At that time, in large part because of its strong Quaker community, Nantucket remained firm in its abolitionist position.

Brief Biography

Free blacks on Nantucket engaged in business. Prince Boston’s nephew Absalom, a freeborn native of Nantucket, became a whaling captain. Grandson of Boston and Maria, Absalom was born to their son Seneca Boston and his Native American wife Thankful (Micah) Boston. Like his younger brother Prince, Seneca had been born into slavery, but he had obtained his freedom upon reaching the age of twenty-eight in 1772. Absalom Boston continued his family’s tradition of agitation and hard work. In 1820, two years before becoming captain of his own ship, he obtained a license to operate a “public inn.”

But his voyage to the Atlantic whaling grounds as captain of the ship Industry with its allblack crew was significant, not because of the modest amount of oil brought back, but because he represented a continuing historical tradition of black seamanship in the whaling industry. Black seamen were subject to being kidnaped and murdered on the high seas. Although the Atlantic slave trade had become unlawful in 1808, an illegal trade continued, which placed all black seamen in jeopardy.

After retiring from the sea, Absalom Boston became a leader in the community known as “Newtown” and “New Guinea.” In the mid 1820s he was a founding trustee of the African Baptist Society, which assembled in the newly constructed Meeting House on the corner of Pleasant and York Streets. By 1830 he had also opened a store. In 1845 he brought suit against the town to get his daughter Phebe Ann Boston admitted to the Nantucket public high school.

Absalom Boston was widowed twice. His first wife was Mary Spywood; his second was Phebe G. Spriggins; and his last wife was Hannah Cook, who outlived him, as did children of his second and third marriages. (2)


  1. Wikipedia
  2. Black-White Relations on Nantucket by Robert Johnson. Spring 2002 issue of Historic Nantucket
  3. "Whaling Museum and Peter Foulger Museum". Museum of African American History
  4. Nantucket Impressions. By Robert Gambee, Elizabeth Heard. Page 206, 207
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Capt. Absalom Boston's Timeline

Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States
June 6, 1855
Age 70
Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States
June 1855
Age 70