Two maids on the steamer CHARLES REBSTOCK (ca. 1880)
While it was rare to see Black men as officers on boats, there were exceptions. Born in 1858 to enslaved parents, at the age of 19 Cumberland Posey took a job on an Ohio River steamboat and within a year had acquired his engineer’s license, becoming the first Black man to do so. Throughout the rest of the 1800’s and into the 1900’s, Posey (known as Captain Posey to his peers) continued his work on the river, eventually creating his own boatbuilding and steel shipping company in Pittsburgh and becoming one of the wealthiest people in the city, in addition to being an early leading figure in the city’s Black community. Posey’s legacy as a steamboat officer was carried on into modern times when, in 1970, Franklin Miles became the Chief Steward and first Black officer on the DELTA QUEEN, a boat many of our fans will have fond memories of.
Fate Marable’s Jazz Band on the steamer SIDNEY (ca. 1918). Marable is on piano, while a young Louis Armstrong can be seen 4th from the left.
Engstrom, Kadie. “Steamboat and River Connections to Black History”. (Educational pamphlet). Howard Steamboat Museum.
Engstrom, Kadie. “Steamboats and Slavery”. (Educational pamphlet). Howard Steamboat Museum.
Horan, Brianna. “Cumberland ‘Cap’ Posey: The Lasting Legacy of Cap Posey”. riversofsteel.com. (October 29, 2020).
Sanders, Don. “The River: Changes were in the air as grand riverboat begins the year to ‘Save the DELTA QUEEN'”. Northern Kentucky Tribune. (September 13, 2020).