Welcome to the MESS

Maritime Education for Students of the Sea (MESS)

The MESS (Maritime Education for Students of the Sea) are informal lunchtime lectures meant to showcase a wide array of maritime knowledge, research and skills. Subjects in the past have included shipwreck survival, Louise Boyd: Arctic explorer, rope walks and maritime fine arts. Lectures usually last around 40 minutes with time for questions afterwards. The MESS lectures seek to amplify new voices, honor experience and respect the diversity of maritime culture. Each lecture is live broadcasted from this webpage and available for viewing. The MESS lectures are sponsored by the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association to help showcase the collection of San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. The ongoing lecture series takes place on the last Thursday of every month at 11AM (PST). 

Next Broadcast:

The life of Benjamin Harrison Fletcher By Labor Historian Peter Cole (Thursday, June 24th at 11AM)


Benjamin Harrison Fletcher surely ranks among the greatest African Americans of the early 20
th century and top echelon of Black unionists in all of US history. Fletcher helped lead a pathbreaking union that likely was the most diverse and integrated organization (not simply union) of his time despite that era’s rampant racism, anti-unionism, and xenophobia. Along with thousands of his fellow Philadelphia dockworkers, he helped found and lead Local 8, affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Perhaps the most radical unions in all of US history, the IWW also was the first predominantly white union to actively organize workers of color, worldwide, including in Australia, South Africa, and the United States. IWW members were, and still are, affectionately known as Wobblies. If one has heard of militant Black American organizers of the 1960s, like Fred Hampton, Ella Baker, or Stokely Carmichael, one should know about Fletcher. Yet, today, Fletcher is unknown except for aficionados of African American labor and radical history. Ben Fletcher died in 1949 and Local 8 no longer exists, but historian Peter Cole will share this history of Fletcher and labor power to fight racism and xenophobia. 

Peter Cole is a professor of history at Western Illinois University (USA) and a research associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). Cole is the author of the award-winning Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area and Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia. He edited Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly and coedited Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW. He is the founder and codirector of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project. 

2021 MESS Lecture Schedule:

A Sailor Looks at Maritime Lit, a talk with Dr. Colin Dewey
(Thursday, July 29th, 2021 at 11AM)

Dr. Colin Dewey (Associate Prof of English, Cal Maritime; “A” book member, Sailors’ Union of the Pacific) will reflect on some favorite maritime literature from his blended perspective as a sailor and scholar of the sea. He will discuss his recent publication, “Robots and Memories: Autonomy and the Future” in A Cultural History of the Sea Vol 6, The Modern Era (Bloomsbury, 2021).

Burial at Sea. Professor David Stewart.
(Thursday, August 26th at 11AM)

Details coming soon.

Pets and the Maritime Community. Sari Mäenpää.
(Thursday, September 30th at 11AM)

Details coming soon.  

Underwater Wonders of the National Park Service. Bert Ho.

Rescheduling Date TBD