In contrast to the sometimes destructive Silent Sam controversy, why not emphasize the accomplishments of slaves and their descendants? Before I was an instructor at UNC, I was a graduate student, and on behalf of my mother, in early December 1973, I donated the first book to the African-American Studies Curriculum. The title was "The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution, 1770 to 1800" (emphasizing Benjamin Banneker).
Concerning slaves in N.C., very few know about the heroic life of Richard Etheridge. Born a slave on Roanoke Island in 1842, Etheridge was treated more like a son of the slave owner than a slave. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and afterwards became one of the famous Buffalo Soldiers in the U.S. Army. Later, he became a surfman at the Bodie Island Life-Saving Station. He then became the keeper of the all-Black life-saving station on Pea Island (see YouTube documentary "Rescue Men") from which they rescued the passengers of the schooner E. S. Newman on the night of October 11, 1896. With hurricane winds exceeding 100 miles per hour, Etheridge asked two of his surfmen, Theodore Meekins and one other, to tie a rope around themselves and anchored to the remaining surfmen, swim through gigantic waves and rescue the ship's passengers (this would make a good motion picture for Denzel Washington).
And whenever I get the chance, I try to emphasize the inventions of former slaves and their descendants. Extremely underpublicized is the fact that the following African Americans invented the following items: L.S. Burridge (typewriting machine), C.B. Brooks (self-propelled street sweeper), J.L. Love (pencil sharpener), J.H. Smith (portable lawn sprinkler), L.C. Bailey (folding bed) and many more.
Dennis Cuddy, Ph.D.
Former American History instructor