Light Hearted

Light Hearted ep 189 – Benn Trask, lighthouses of southeastern Virginia

Benn Trask has more than twenty years of teaching experience, mostly as a middle-school history teacher. He holds an undergraduate degree in education and a master’s degree in history, both from Virginia Tech. Following Virginia Tech, he served as a communications officer in the Marine Corps. In 1987, he returned to graduate school, earning a master’s degree in library science from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Old Point Comfort Lighthouse, Virginia. USLHS photo by Ralph Eshelman.
Benn Trask

Prior to teaching, he was the librarian and a curator at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News. His exhibits, presentations and publications revolve around yellow fever, the American Civil War, maritime affairs, and African American history. From 2013 to 2021, he worked as a deckhand and narrator on the Miss Hampton II harbor cruise boat. On this floating classroom, he shared with visitors the story of five light stations in the Hampton Roads area.

He’s currently writing a book for the History Press on 11 lighthouses of southeastern Virginia. The book will include information on some of the African American keepers in Virginia, and Benn is also writing an article on that topic for the U.S. Lighthouse Society’s journal, The Keeper’s Log.  A Navy brat and a long-time resident of Hampton, he enjoys writing, exercising, origami, and of course, history road trips.

William Roscoe Davis (right) was one of many African American light keepers in southeastern Virginia. He was the keeper at Old Point Comfort 1870-78.

(USLHS archives)

2 thoughts on “Light Hearted ep 189 – Benn Trask, lighthouses of southeastern Virginia

  1. Wow this was so interesting and so informative! I love the info on the black and women lighthouse keepers! That would be such a good movie on one of the female light house keepers. Because I’m sure it was difficult to gain appointment as a lighthouse keeper if you were a black and especially if you were a woman or black woman. Yet in life we so often do what by happenstance he have to do or gave an option to do. Then you become known fur doing it and people depend on you to do it or help with it, whether you have the official position or not. It would be fun to see the rise of someone learning to do this and taking on that responsibility. During the times of slavery and the underground railway people often used places like lighthouses, warehouse areas, train stations, ports, ferry crossings as links to help with moving escaped slaves from one place to another. Lighthouses were used as signals to say all’s clear to boats and to target the next point on the map to go to. So slaves or those helping the underground railroads that worked there at a lighthouse would have been a real asset.
    I hope the author considers submitting the content of this to the history channel, Oprah’s production company and BBC who fund shows on interesting topics like this. Because this would make an interesting show or movie or series, as well as an interesting book of course!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Leticia! I also hope this material becomes a movie or TV show/series. It’s a part of history that needs to be remembered.

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