Gregory White poses with a copy of the book that changed his life for the better. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)
The newspaper came to me in pieces and sections. Rarely would there be a complete newspaper. And when it did arrive, it would always be two or three days old. However, it always made for a good read, even when an edition was days old. There was an article in the feature section, a book review, that caught my attention.
The book was “Black Jacks: African American Seaman in the Age of Sail”by W. Jeffrey Bolster. The review held a great deal of information and historical data, so for days I read and re-read it. I would pace the floor, holding the article in hand, reading again and again about African American sailors.
I began thinking about how time and occasion has passed me by, and how I had aspired as a child to be a sailor. Traveling the world was what I had always envisioned for myself — the open water, visiting foreign seaports and exotic locales. And here was a book about men and women, young and old, some free, some held in servitude, some disenfranchised, many with limited education or none at all, some with few possessions (if any) — and they had taken on the challenge, taken up their sea bags and daringly demonstrated commitment and resolve and “pushed off . . .”