Saturday, May 26, 2012
Watched today a nice documentary film Rescue Men: The Story of the Pea Island Life Savers (2010), funded by the North Carolina Council for the Humantities, covering the valiant and professional service of a group of African American lifesavers at Pea Island, North Carolina (on the barrier islands) during the post Civil War period. Led by the stern yet fair Richard Etheridge (a former slave, decorated Civil War sergeant and Buffalo soldier), who fought to keep his crew in topmost readiness, as well as countered racist criticism and worse. The segregated crew managed to obtain an almost perfect record of saving lives, including a daring rescue during a hurricane (which would not be honored for more than one hundred years) in which crew members swam out into the surf to bring the entire crew of a grounded ship to shore, without the loss of any lives. Coastal lifesavers eventually melded with the Cutter Service to establish the U.S. Coast Guard, and this film reveals a forgotten part of the story. I recommend it for teachers and personal use, and applaud the historians who uncovered and wrote about the story of these brave men.