BKulas asks:
> Were most of them really kidnapped/pressed into service?

The original ones were.  That was 150 years ago.  I think the New 
Bedford illegals started to be common when air travel became relatively 
inexpensive in the mid-1960's.  

> Another interesting note about New Bedford and American whaling in 
> the first half of the 19th Century is that whaling ships often provided 
> a refuge and employment for escaped slaves. 

Much of New England was a refuge and source of employment for 
escaped slaves.  That typically wasn't done for humanitarian reasons.  
It was cheap labor.

> One of the books that I am currently reading is Moby Dick (somehow
> I escaped it in high school), and I find that it offers fascinating 
> glimpses of American economic, cultural, maritime, etc., history, 
> perhaps especially for a New Englander. 

I recall it was required reading for me twice in high school.  I got it 
both in English and in History.  It's part of the local indoctrination.  For 
local reading, the other book is "Sailing Alone Around the World" by 
Joshua Slocum.

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