A third presentation of “Freedmen, Surfmen, Heroes: The Unique Story of the Pea Island Lifesavers,” will take place on Wednesday, August 2 at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. This engaging presentation conveys the history of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station and the historic role surfmen played in saving lives along the coast of the Outer Banks. It also carries an important message of diversity, cooperation and equal opportunity.
“A big takeaway from the Pea Island Lifesaving story is how people should be able to rise to the level of their ability without being hindered based on their ethnicity or the color of their skin,” says presenter Joan Collins.
Richard Etheridge, the Keeper of the Pea Island Station, was the first African-American Keeper in the U.S. Lifesaving Service. He was appointed to the role based on his skill and expertise in a time when earlier when many others in the service were given their positions because of connections or favoritism. This change allowed only experienced local watermen to qualify for the service. Etheridge’s then became the only all-black crew in the service, and their heroism would result in hundreds of rescues from the Graveyard of the Atlantic. They also needed to work alongside neighboring white crews to accomplish their mission, demonstrating that differences of race and ethnicity can be overcome to achieve great things.
Presentations in June and July have drawn enthusiastic participation by adults and children in attendance, and lead into important discussions about diversity and unity. Presenters Joan and Darrell Collins, descendants of the Pea Island Lifesavers, and historical interpreters and experts on the U.S. Life-Saving Service on the North Carolina coast Keeper James Charlet and Linda Molloy, have watched the presentation grow and engage more and more people into this important dialogue.
“It has been exciting to see people, especially kids, engage and interact with the presenters about this program,” Collins said. “We have been pleased that more and more are coming to hear this thought provoking story and to learn about this important part of the history of the Outer Banks.”
The U.S. Life-Saving Service would eventually be merged into the United States Coast Guard, whose formation is observed every August 4th. This presentation will honor that legacy and the important roles the USCG performs.
“Freedmen, Surfmen, Heroes: The Unique Story of the Pea Island Lifesavers,” will take place on Wednesday, August 2 in NCARI’s Neptune’s Theater at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and is included with regular aquarium admission.