Skip Finley has the kind of obsessiveness you read about in classic whaling stories. So it's fitting that he should break ground with his book, Whaling Captains of Color: America's First Meritocracy.
We learn a lot in this conversation about the fascinating intersection between Skip Finley's life and work.
Skip had a hard time sitting still as a child. He had a bad case of asthma too. His health was so poor, he had such a hard time breathing, that his mother had to keep him home from school in the second grade and teach him herself. She instilled in him a life-long love of reading.
The inability to sit still, literally and figuratively, a combination, he says, of ADHD and OCD, worked for him in the fast-moving radio industry, "where you have 30 seconds to make or correct a mistake." He also benefited from learning how to read and write fluently in the language of spreadsheets and computers. He rose to be a leader in the industry, including as a Vice Chair of the National Association of Broadcasters. When he retired from radio at the age of 50 -- again, he couldn't sit still.
Which leads us to the results of his obsessive quest, to bring to light the unearthed stories of Black men, and other men of color, who rose to become captains of whaling ships at a time when whale oil was to New England what crude oil is now to much of the Middle East.
We spoke with him at his home in the Martha's Vineyard community of Oak Bluffs -- which is fitting, in a way, for the subject. Because Martha's Vineyard, like Nantucket, was an important center for whaling. And Oak Bluffs happens to be home to a large community of highly accomplished Black families who have made it their summer sanctuary for more than half a century. Inspiring legacies.