By Outer Banks Voice on March 10, 2021
Current TV, in partnership with the Town of Manteo, has released this video that highlights the historic Pea Island Life-Saving Station and honors Outer Banks icon Richard Etheridge.
The video, titled, “Freedmen. Surfmen. Heroes. — The Story of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Life-Saving Station,” tells the unique story of a crew of African-American surfmen who served their country at a time of immense racial divide in the United States.
Located in Rodanthe, the Pea Island Life-Saving Station was constructed in 1878, and in 1880 it became the first in the United States to be manned by an all-African American crew of surfmen. The station was also the first in the nation to have an African-American man — Richard Etheridge, who was born a slave on Roanoke Island on Jan. 16, 1842 — as the station’s keeper and commanding officer.
Under the direction of Etheridge, the station was continually regarded as one of the best on the entire Eastern Seaboard thanks to the crew’s remarkable efforts to save the lives of hundreds of sailors who found themselves in distress due to the perils of the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
In 1996 — a century after the Pea Island Life-Saving Station crew’s heroic Oct. 11, 1896, rescue of the passengers and crew who were aboard the E.S. Newsman — Etheridge and his crew were posthumously awarded a Gold Lifesaving Medal of Honor by the United States Coast Guard for their courage, dedication and service that day.
The story and legacy of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Life-Saving Station can be found on display at the Pea Island Cookhouse Museum in Manteo and at www.PeaIslandPreservationSociety.com.