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Black History month proclaimed

On Feb. 1, Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed February as Black History Month in North Carolina.

“African Americans have made invaluable contributions to our state and our nation’s history, and the month of February is an important time to remember these figures,” said Cooper. “Many North Carolinians have dedicated their lives and careers to capturing and preserving African American history, and their work often goes unsung. This year during Black History Month, we will pause to celebrate the keepers of our state’s rich, diverse history and culture.”

In the proclamation, Cooper pointed out

*North Carolina has the largest number of four-year, degree-granting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, 11 in all, dating back to the founding of Shaw University in 1865.

*African American military service has roots in the state with the 1st North Carolina Colored Volunteers regiment joining the Union Army in 1863 and the first African Americans serving in the U.S. Marine Corps were trained at Montford Point in Camp Lejeune.

*In the 1960s, African American activists in the state launched the nation’s Sit-In movement in Greensboro, assembled the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Raleigh, led the Edenton Movement demonstrations and organized the Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality.

Locally, in Dare County, two African American firsts stand out.

*Formally established on May 14, 1863, the Freedmen’s Colony on Roanoke Island became home to 3,500 former slaves–men, women, and children. It was the first community of its kind in North Carolina. At its height, the colony provided residents with land to farm, schools, places to worship, and jobs to learn skills and earn a living.

*Capt. Richard Etheridge was the first African-American to command a life-saving station when the United States Life-Saving Service appointed him keeper of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station in 1880.

Capt. Richard Etheridge will be honored Feb. 20. The newly-completed mid-Pea Island bridge will be dedicated in his honor. A year ago, the Dare Board of Commissioners recommended that NCDOT name the bridge in honor of Etheridge and the state’s Board of Transportation approved.