Take Me to the Water: Histories of the Black Pacific reveals the deep and historic connection between people of African descent and the Pacific Ocean.
Most accounts of the United States’ maritime enterprises are disproportionately populated by white seafarers. Yet, from the 16th to the 20th century, Black whalers, commercial mariners, fishers, explorers, soldiers, and sailors traveled along the Pacific Coast and traversed the high seas. The stories of these mariners, their impact in shaping the American Pacific, and their legacy in the context of development of society and identity, are all explored in Take Me to the Water: Histories of the Black Pacific.
Importantly, this exhibition recenters the relationship between Black folks, water, and ships. Take Me to the Water moves beyond the entrenched narrative of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and towards the understanding that Black people have not only existed in the Pacific region for centuries, but played an integral role in the development of Pacific economy and society
This exhibition will be curated by Dr. Caroline Collins, who charts her interest in Black people’s relationships with water and watercraft to a childhood that included regular visits to Southern California beaches. Dr. Collins is a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at UC Irvine, an affiliated researcher with the Democracy Lab and the Indigenous Futures Institute at UC San Diego, and is a co-founder of Black Like Water, an interdisciplinary research collective at UCSD that highlights Black relationships to the natural world.
The exhibit’s themes include:
- African Maritime Traditions: freedom and autonomy on the high seas and African roots of seafaring
- Journeying into the Pacific: Black conquistadors, the art of navigation, and finding freedom by working at sea
- Black Labor on Pacific Docks: Pioneers in shipping, WWII-era women shipbuilders, and longshoring and labor movements
- Black Ecologies: the impact of Black folks’ interactions with the natural world, from hunting to ecology
- Patrolling the Pacific: discriminatory maritime policies and Black soldiers and sailors on the water
- Building Communities: how the Pacific Ocean facilitated the exchange of experiences, ideas, and trade goods, and fostered community for people of African descent
This project is made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities (visit calhum.org to learn more) and a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.
- General, Teenagers
- Rental Fee:
- $1,500 + shipping for 8 weeks
- 750-1,100 sq. ft.
- English, Spanish (via a binder)
- 14 double-sided retractable banners (1 intro banner, 2 banners for each theme, 1 conclusion)
- A selection of objects, including compasses, clothing, and raw materials used in shipmaking
- Multiple AV components
- Easy-to-install interactive, such as a nautical knot-tying station
- 1-2 tablets and security stands
Schedule and Availability
January 21, 2024 – March 17, 2024
Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento, CA
April 14, 2024 – June 23, 2024 (10 weeks)
Mendocino County Museum, Willits, CA
July 14, 2024 – August 11, 2024 (4 weeks)
September 1, 2024 – October 27, 2024
November 17, 2024 – January 12, 2025
February 2, 2025 – March 2, 2025 (4 weeks)
March 23, 2025 – May 18, 2025
San Diego Public Library, San Diego, CA
June 8, 2025 – August 3, 2025
August 24, 2025 – October 19, 2025
November 9, 2025 – January 4, 2026
January 25, 2026 – March 22, 2026
April 12, 2026 – June 21, 2026 (10 weeks)
July 12, 2026 – September 6, 2026
September 27, 2026 – November 22, 2026