Oak Bluffs is one of the rarest of places, a place where many, past and present, have been contributors to American black history. Rarer still, but not unexpected, our richly diverse town has benefited from having black history makers who aren’t (or weren’t) necessarily black.

One of those great stories is about the late Justine Tyrell Priestly Smadbeck (1921 – 2004) who was, surprisingly, a white Upper East Side New York mother of four who from 1961 to 1971, using the nom de plume Gertrude Wilson, wrote 75 columns in New York’s historic black newspaper, the Amsterdam News. Her column, White on White, was her view on the civil rights era from her decidedly unique perspective as a woman journalist dedicated to social justice. Justine wrote about the march on Washington, Selma and Montgomery and the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. She knew them and was with Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s widow, and Coretta Scott King in the days after their husbands’ deaths. She received fan mail from Langston Hughes, Jackie Robinson, Oak Bluffs’ New York congressman Adam Clayton Powell and was the only white person at Malcolm X’s funeral, about which she wrote “touched me more than I can ever say.” In an interview she was quoted saying, “It’s my fight, too. If one black person is told he can’t vote because he is black — I mean, that’s my country. One of my countrymen can’t have his rights. It’s humiliating.”

When working at the Jesse Smith Noyes Foundation, an organization that provided educational grants to minorities, she met C.B. Powell, the black publisher of the Amsterdam News who brought her aboard to do the column. Howard-educated Dr. Powell had bought the Amsterdam News in 1935. Dr. Powell and Amsterdam News editor James L. Hicks were both coincidentally Oak Bluffs homeowners in those years. Justine moved here in 1974 to Waterview Farm. She founded the Vineyard real estate firm, Priestley, Smadbeck & Mone, in partnership with her son, Arthur Smadbeck, today an Edgartown selectman.

Oak Bluffs’ Emmy award-winning filmmaker Stan Nelson’s new film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, is his eighth to debut at the Sundance Film Festival. I’m sure we’ll get to screen Stanley’s 12th movie, a feature-length documentary, here this summer. Last year Stan was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama.

As part of Black History Month, the film Passage at St. Augustine will be shown by the League of Women Voters at Howe’s House from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday morning with brunch served at 8:30 at 1042 State Road in West Tisbury. The civil rights-based film features the late Esther Burgess, Julia Burgess’ mother, who, as a bishop’s wife, flew to St. Augustine, Fla., along with three white church women, two of whom were also wives of Episcopal bishops.

Participating in a sit-in, they all went to jail to promote the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday the library has Valentine cookie decorating for kids who can make someone a special cookie. All ages are of course welcome.

The high school is having the 2015 Science and Engineering Fair Saturday from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.; you remember how good your project was, stop by and see how much better today’s future techies are.

Victorian Secrets is the delightful, if not titillating, title of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s exhibit showcasing beautiful but uncomfortable 19th-century undergarments, from silk and whalebone corsets to padded bodices. Free for members (you should join!), $7 for nonmembers in time for Valentine’s Day. The museum encourages you to join them for the reception from 5 to 7 p.m. next Friday, cheekily inviting you to help . . . unveil the exhibit. Your prurience may be disappointed but your interest piqued.

Look What A Wonder, an hour-long gospel opera created by Walter Johnson, will be played at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. This is the tragic story of Denmark Vesey and the Slave Conspiracy. Using gospel music, the story illustrates courage and resistance, freedom and justice and portrays enslavement and resistance through the perspective of its victims. The Martha’s Vineyard NAACP presents this and there will be a conversation and brunch after.

Justine Priestly was once quoted, “A lot of people both black and white thought I didn’t have a right to be doing this kind of thing . . . so I explained in a column one time, ‘This is my country, and this is my fight, too.’”

Keep your foot on a rock.

Send your Oak Bluffs news to: sfinley@mvgazette.com.