He was, above all, a Mariner

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Yankee Tar anchored in Bora Bora, French Polynesia
The Mariners’ Museum and Park Collection

Hal Holbrook (1925—2021)

Most everyone knows Hal Holbrook as a quintessential actor of television, movies, and the stage. I guess the roles that stuck out for me were his portrayal of Deep Throat in the 1976 film All The President’s Men, as Commander Rochefort in Midway that same year; as Lt. Briggs in the 1973 film Magnum Force; and, of course his portrayal of Jeremiah Denton in the 1979 film, When Hell Was in Session. Hal’s stage and screen career was as incredible as it was diverse.

And for all of that, one of Hal’s greatest passions was sailing.    Read more

Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line

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Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey, 1887-1940, photographed August 5, 1924. (from Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection)

Some time ago, I wrote a post about a black entrepreneur in the Baltimore area whose name was Capt. George Brown. As a young man he experienced the degradations of the Jim Crow system while riding the rails, vowing that one he would create a first-class transportation experience for black people. And he did it! He also built a memorable pair of amusement parks where black citizens of Baltimore could go and be safe and enjoy themselves. Today, I want to write about Marcus Garvey, a black man whose dreams for  his people were much larger, who was much more complex, and who was far more controversial than Captain Brown.

Marcus Garvey, like George Brown, believed in the power of ships and transportation to change the lives of black people all over the world. He founded the company, the Black Star Line, as an embodiment of that dream to link the 400,000,000 people of color around the globe with the continent of Africa. But his story did not end up quite so well as George Brown’s.   Read more

African Americans and the Newport News Port of Embarkation in World War I

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Corporal Benjamin Harrison Splowne, Museum Collection

He stands there, tall and proud, gazing into the camera, a backdrop of the United States Capitol behind him.  Dressed in a high-collared wool uniform with a corporal’s rank insignia sewn on his right sleeve, Benjamin Harrison Splowne had reason to beam.  Drafted in June 1917 into the National Army, he was promoted to the rank of corporal within a few months of his induction.

Exactly where and when this photograph was taken is subject to speculation.  It is conceivable that it was taken in Newport News, as Benjamin Harrison Splowne was stationed at Camp Hill, Virginia for a brief while in 1917.  In fact, he was promoted to corporal on November 16, 1917 at Camp Hill, shortly before shipping overseas.  The Museum is fortunate to have his promotion certificate, along with his studio portrait, for they help document the often-overlooked role of African American soldiers during World War I, both in Newport News as well as abroad.   Read more