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Exhibit examines contributions of black pioneers

During John Henry Dick Turpin's service with the Navy, he was aboard two ships sunk by enemy fire.He survived both times, and also managed to save the lives of a captain and seven shipmates.Turpin eventually settled down in Bremerton, where he was celebrated as a war hero.In the 1940s when the second world war broke out, he was called back into duty and he was a role model for African Americans being recruited into the Navy, said Dianne Robinson, the founder of the Kitsap County Black Historical Society.The feature exploring Turpin's life is one of many on display at the Pioneer Exhibit at Kitsap Mall through Oct. 16. The exhibit, located across from the Gap, is the result of 20 years of research by Robinson. It features photo displays of black Americans who have had a hand in building the local community.We want to make sure people know African Americans do make a contribution by depicting what has happened in the past, said Robinson, who created most of the displays from photos and research she has collected from federal and state archives and local families.The display also features antiques and a dozen figurines of historical legends like Ida B. Wells, who was born into slavery but later became a journalist, a social worker and one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); and Daniel Hale Williams, the first doctor to perform a successful heart surgery.But for Rose Singleton, the exhibits of the local heroes are the most powerful part of the display.A lot of the people featured are people I know or have known, said Singleton, one of the exhibit's volunteers. Those people include former Bremerton City Council Member Al Colvin, community activist and 1972 Kitsap County Woman of the Year Gertude Joseph and former Puget Sound Naval Shipyard equal opportunity officer Loxie Eagans, for whom a road in Bremerton is named.The exibit, in its third year, explores many aspects of life, including sports and recreation, military service, service organizations and families. It also displays blown-up copies of historically significant newspaper articles and political memorabilia.There is a feature on the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church and its humble beginnings. Started by just 11 people, it will celebrate its 80th anniversary this year. The church still stands on the 900 block of Park Avenue. Robinson said she would like to continue the annual exibit, and she is planning deeper research into topics she is interested in. Among them are the Sinclair Heights community, a historically black neighborhood directly behind where the Bremerton auto mall is now, and the contributions of African Americans in the military.Sponsors of the exibit are the Kitsap County Black Historical Society, the African American Museum Board and the Grace Pentecostal Church.

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