'Sea Change'

Photo by Janet Donovan
Max Kennedy, Bob Nixon, Liz Stevens
Max Kennedy, Bob Nixon, Liz Stevens

“The reason we’re here tonight is really because of David Smith and his family,” said Max Kennedy at a book party in his honor for Sea Change: A Man, A Boat, and A Journey Home at the residence of Sarah and Bob Nixon in Georgetown.  “I don’t know how many of you know the story of  The Pearl, but David is gonna tell us a little bit about it. The whole point of this book was to try to bring a real wooden schooner to Washington DC to represent The Pearl and to give children who are going to the public schools in DC a chance at experiential learning, a chance to experience the natural environment, and a chance also to understand what it was, to some degree, to try to escape to freedom.”

First things first: “The Pearl Incident was the largest recorded nonviolent escape attempt by slaves in United States history. On April 15, 1848, seventy-seven slaves attempted to escape Washington D.C. by sailing away on a schooner called The Pearl. Their plan was to sail south on the Potomac River, then north up the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River to the free state of New Jersey, a distance of nearly 225 miles (362 km). The attempt was organized by both abolitionist whites and free blacks, who expanded the plan to include many more slaves. Paul Jennings, a former slave who had served President James Madison, helped plan the escape. The slaves, including men, women and children, found their passage delayed by winds running against the ship. Two days later, they were captured on the Chesapeake Bay near Point Lookout, Maryland by an armed posse traveling by steamboat. As punishment, the owners sold most of the slaves to traders who took them to the Deep South.”  Wikipedia