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OBH celebrates black history

The Outer Banks Hospital and Medical Group, along with community members, enjoyed a celebration of black history on Tuesday, February 20 in the hospital’s lobby, with vocal performances by the Elizabeth City State University choir and a re-enactment by “Keeper James” (aka James Charlet) of the 1896 African American surfmen’s daring rescue of the schooner E.S. Newman. Choir Director Dr. Walter R. Swan began the event with an a cappella rendition of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” followed by the full choir performing such well-known spirituals as “Poor Man Lazarus” and “I Shall Wear a Crown.”

Keeper James had the audience’s full attention as he told the amazing story of Captain Richard Etheridge, who was once a slave and became the first African American to lead a lifesaving station. Etheridge and his crew, known as the surfmen, together saved hundreds of lives from the tumultuous waters along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, including those involved in the wreck of the E.S. Newman.  Patricia Minnifield, OBH director of business services who organized the event, said, “I believe it’s extremely important to continue to acknowledge the struggles and achievements of people like Richard Etheridge so that future generations understand American heritage and learn that persistence and attitude are the keys to success.”

Notably, February 20 was the same day that the new bridge connecting the Northern Outer Banks to Hatteras Island was dedicated and named The Captain Richard Etheridge Bridge.

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