Rescheduled Checkerboard Crews and Colored News program to be held Saturday

Published 1:55 pm Friday, March 3, 2023

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By Joan L. Collins, Director, Outreach and Education, Pea Island Preservation Society, Inc.

We are pleased to announce the black history program “Checkerboard Crews and Colored News” has been rescheduled. This event will now take place on Saturday, March 4, 2023 at 3 p.m. at the College of The Albemarle – Dare.While we were disappointed to postpone the originally scheduled February 18 date for this program, rescheduling the event to March 4 is an important reminder that black history should not be confined to being recognized only during Black History Month. The black history of Roanoke Island and the surrounding area is an important and integral part of the history of this area, yet it has been overshadowed by more popular history the area is known for. Our goal is to change this and to provide a deeper understanding of the area’s black history and a more inclusive community.

The program will feature the unveiling of a new painting, The Checkerboard Crew, by Outer Banks artist James Melvin. Mr. Melvin’s new painting is intended to bring attention and awareness of the history of integrated crews of black and white surfmen who once patrolled the beaches and saved the lives of those at peril at sea along the coast of the Outer Banks. Famed Outer Banks hero, Keeper Richard Etheridge, once enslaved on Roanoke Island and who became the nation’s first black keeper in the U.S. Life-Saving Saving Service, served on a such a crew before being placed in charge of the historic Pea Island lifesaving station. Yet, very few know the story of integrated crews, known then as “checkerboard crews” that existed here decades ago. Mr. Melvin’s new painting is a powerful reminder of this unknown history.

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PIPSI youth volunteers of our organization, and who are descendants of the all-black lifesaving crew that Keeper Richard Etheridge commanded at station Pea Island, will also participate in the program and will provide a special welcoming for the audience.

Given we are anticipating a large crowd, we encourage early arrival. We will also be asking those who are attending to register once arriving and indicate if they are descendants of those who once served at U.S. Life-Saving Service stations or early U.S. Coast Guard stations on the Outer Banks.

The program will be filmed and afterwards will include a reception to encourage those attending to discuss and share what they have learned and/or their connection to this history.

Please also note, on Sunday, March 5, 2023, from 2-4 p.m., the Pea Island Cookhouse Museum located at 622 Sir Walter Raleigh Street in Manteo will be opened to visitors and the new painting, The Checkerboard Crew, will be available for viewing here.