Mention the word “pirate” today and the name “Blackbeard” almost immediately comes to mind. But very little is known of the man who became one of the most feared scourges of the high seas during the “Golden Age of Piracy” in the early 1700s. History is almost completely silent about the early years of Blackbeard; even his real name is not known for certain. The legend of Blackbeard has endured the centuries, making him perhaps the best known of all pirates. But he was not the most successful pirate, he did not have the longest career, nor—despite the fear his name invoked upon those whose ships he captured—was he the most brutal.
Although most pirates were little more than thieves of the open sea, an aura of mystique and romance surrounds them, due in large part to literature and Hollywood. In reality, there seldom was buried treasure, “Argh” was not part of a pirate’s vocabulary, and no parrot perched on a pirate’s shoulder. But there frequently was rum.
The traveling exhibit Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge, 1718: The Legend of Blackbeard, created by the North Carolina Maritime Museum, offers a fresh look not just at Blackbeard himself, but at the men who sailed with him, and his flagship—Queen Anne’s Revenge. In addition, the exhibit examines why men (and sometimes women) adopted a life of piracy, and why that life was often a short one, usually with a violent ending. Featuring artifacts from the wreckage of the QAR, the exhibit shows what “a pirate’s life for me” actually entailed, and it delves deeper into the history of the QAR itself—including its pre-Blackbeard days as the slave ship La Concorde.