USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Site Notification

Site Notification

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

A Salute to African-American Mariners

Image of African-Americans Making Maritime History

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.

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.
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.
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.
— 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 —