‘Freedmen, Surfmen, Heroes’ returns to the Aquarium

By on June 14, 2018

“Saving Lives Together,”  is the work of Outer Banks artist James Melvin. (Pea Island Preservation Society)

The inspiring live presentation, Freedmen, Surfmen, Heroes, by the Pea Island Preservation Society, returns to the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island this summer.

The presentation will be held in the Aquarium’s Neptune Theater at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Thursday, June 14; Thursday, July 12, and Thursday, Aug. 9. The program will be included with regular admission.

Freedmen, Surfmen, Heroes, designed to bring attention to the history of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Life-Savers, was presented on numerous occasions at the Aquarium last year, and at elementary schools in Dare County.

It was also performed for a packed audience in February, as part of the dedication ceremony of the new Capt. Richard Etheridge Bridge on N.C. 12, where it received rave reviews.

Etheridge, a slave taught to read and write, was the nation’s first black keeper. U.S. Life-Saving Service Station Pea Island is the only life-saving station in the history of the service that had all black keepers and surfmen for most of its existence.

For decades (1880-1947) — shortly after the Civil War, during Reconstruction, and before the Civil Rights movement began — Etheridge and the surfmen at station Pea Island patrolled the coast of the Outer Banks along with surfmen at neighboring all-white stations, and together saved lives. This inspiring story teaches important messages about fair treatment, unity, teamwork, and providing equal opportunity to all.

The program is presented by Joan and Darrell Collins, descendants of the Pea Island Life-Savers, along with local costumed historical interpreters James Charlet and Linda Molloy.

In dramatic fashion, the presenters recount the Oct. 11, 1896 heroic rescue of the nine-member crew of schooner E.S. Newman along the North Carolina coast during hurricane conditions — a rescue that resulted in Etheridge and his crew posthumously awarded the U.S. Coast Guard Gold Life-Saving Medal in March 1996.

The three words, Freedmen, Surfmen, Heroes, each represent an important part of the story and the accompanying live presentation is intended to promote this history in a new and creative way.

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    Thursday, Jun 14 @ 11:05 am