Waters of Despair, Waters of Hope

Waters of Despair, Waters of Hope: African-Americans and the Chesapeake Bay

Since the early 1600s, Africans and their descendants have played important roles in the history and economy of the Chesapeake Bay. These skilled craftsmen and women helped build the communities and culture that shaped everyday life, while their labor supported the regional industries and the naval presence that still dominate the Bay's economy.

In turn, the Chesapeake Bay has played an important role in the history of African-Americans. The Bay's waterways fed the plantation system that drove the slave trade. At the same time, marine avenues also offered slaves many pathways to freedom. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

African-Americans also faced unique dilemmas during times of war: should they choose loyalty or a chance for freedom by supporting the opposing forces? Later accepted as full-fledged military personnel, they have played an integral part in our naval forces.

African-Americans have also been involved in the modern commerce of the Chesapeake region. From employment in industries such as shipbuilding, port facilities, merchant shipping, to commercial fishing, their contributions have helped make the Bay a global economic center.


  • 30 framed digital graphic/text panels - 44 1/2" x 86" x 11/2"
  • (3 panels have attached artifacts in cases and 1 painting)
  • 1 wooden platform with digital repeater as part of oyster shucking station including a shucking stand, table, basket of oysters, and oyster tongs
  • 1 3' x 5' photomural of painting
  • 2 freestanding digital repeaters in crates
  • interactive reproduction oyster shells with questions and answers

Optional - Additional items may be provided upon request with adjustment in rental fee and shipping costs including:

  • A video tape of workers at Newport News Shipbuilding. (Lender will need to provide their own video equipment)
  • Pilings used for panel supports, netting, and crab pots.

Educational Component - Newspaper In Education (supplement); Supporting section of The Mariners' Museum web site; Traveling trunk

Space Required - 1,500-1,700 square feet

Shipping - Arranged by The Mariners' Museum and paid by host

Exhibition Period - 8 weeks

Exhibition Fee - $5,000