This article examines the labor politics of race in Durban harbor between 1897 and 1947. It approaches the subject from an analysis of labor in a global, and particularly a British Empire, context. The article aims to move away from a solely “national” focus on the South African state and instead to look “up” toward connections to the British Empire, the world economy, and global social and political movements, and “down” towards Durban itself. These large scale (imperial and global) and small scale (city) levels were very concretely connected by Durban's role as a port. This article contends that in order to understand the place of working class Durban in an imperial world, we need to incorporate the shipping industry into other labor histories, studying how the movement of vessels and the actions of seafarers concretely linked these spatial levels. This article provides a broad overview of the sociological “shape” of the Durban working class and focuses on four “moments” of racialized labor in Durban harbor: the riot against M.K. Gandhi in 1897, the British seamen's strike of 1925, the insurgency of black dockworkers in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and the conflicts over the presence of Indian seamen in the port during the Second World War. These events revolved around what is here called a politics of disembarkation, in which the joining of the ship to the world of the shore created a zone of conflict.