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Under segregation, black and white children could not legally attend the one-room schoolhouse on Portsmouth Island together.The state never built a separate school for blacks, so African Americans who remained on the island in its declining years never received the benefits of a formal education.The inhabitants of Portsmouth Village were heavily engaged in fishing and other maritime trades, like piloting and manning vessels, even building a small man-made island, Shell Castle, out of oyster shells for use as a shipping depot. Much of Portsmouth's population was African American descending from the slaves brought to the island.
Many people who have no direct family connection to the island participate in the homecoming.
Portsmouth is reached by a passenger ferry from Ocracoke village.
In 1967 Portsmouth Island and village had already been acquired by the National Park Service then incorporated into the new Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Last two elderly residents, Marian Gray Babb and Nora Dixon, left the island in 1971 after the death of Henry Pigott, who although approximately the same age was essentially their caretaker.
During the summer months in Portsmouth, a cooling afternoon sea breeze is present on most days, but episodes of extreme heat and humidity can occur with heat index values ≥ 100 °F (≥ 38 °C). potential natural vegetation types, Portsmouth, North Carolina would have a dominant vegetation type of Live oak/Sea Oats Uniola paniculata (90) with a dominant vegetation form of Coastal Prairie (20).