Gumby's Events > Wreck of the Vestris
The SS Vestris was a steamship with a regular route from New York to Buenos Aires that sank off the coast of Virginia on 12 November 1928. The disaster killed more than 100 people and caused a national scandal over the readiness of the vessel and crew. While the wreck of the Vestris spawned numerous investigations and captured national attention, the accompanying pages from Gumby's scrapbook suggest another way that some might view the tragedy as a memorable event.
Among the surviving crew members was Lionel Licorish, a Barbadian quartermaster serving aboard the Vestris who rescued twenty passengers during the disaster and later was widely-praised for his bravery. So enduring was his celebrity that a poem memorializing Licorish's actions appeared in the 1 October 1930 issue of the Survey Graphic, nearly two years after the wreck (see above right: "Social Equality, pt. 2," p. [24, flap open]). While his heroism might have garnered celebration regardless of his background, the fact that Licorish was a black man clearly played a role in how contemporaries viewed his actions. As the above clipping describing a New York City celebration honoring him indicates, much of the praise--from New York's mayor Jimmy Walker and James Weldon Johnson, the head of the NAACP, among others--focused on the fact that Licorish was a "representative of his race" who proved that black people were as capable as valor as white people. In this light, it is noteworthy that Gumby included these clippings in a series of four volumes that documented efforts to achieve "Social Equality" for black people in the United States.