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Richmond marks anniversary of first Black firefighters hired in Virginia: 'They persevered'

Fire chief: 'Some of the things that they had to do would be simply unconscionable today'
Posted at 6:55 PM, Jul 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-11 22:44:52-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond Fire Department commemorated the 71st anniversary of the hiring of the first Black career firefighters in Virginia.

Ten men were selected out of 500 on July 1, 1950 to form the first black unit in the City of Richmond.

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The group was assigned to Engine Company No. 9 at Fifth and Duval streets.

Richmond Fire Chief Melvin Carter said those men persevered through many hardships as they stayed dedicated to creating a diverse workforce.

"The things that those men had to endure, had to put up with, had to overcome, had to go around, was just simply amazing," Carter said. "Some of the things that they had to do would be simply unconscionable today in the modern fire service, but yet they persevered."

Carter, the first native Richmonder to rise through the ranks to become chief, was born two days before the department was integrated on July 6, 1963.

He is the third Black chief in the department's history.

Two murals will be unveiled on Aug. 6 honoring the first Black firefighters and police officers hired in Richmond.