Oak Bluffs has many contributors to history from today and yesterday who are black. One, Dr. Beny J. Primm, just published his first book, The Healer: A Doctor’s Crusade Against Addiction and Aids, at the urging of Oak Bluffs historian Bob Hayden. This is the story, against formidable odds, of how Dr. Primm became a pioneering physician, advisor to five presidents, and a world-renowned authority on addiction and HIV/AIDS. Born in 1928, the son of an educator and a mortician, he was raised in a home where education was emphasized, and from an early age, wanted to be a doctor. Attending Lincoln University with a basketball scholarship, he transferred and graduated from West Virginia State University. After several years as a paratrooper, Dr. Primm returned home but was unable to get into medical school in the U.S. Having studied German in college, he was accepted at the University of Heidelberg, and then received his M.D. from the University of Geneva in Switzerland in 1959.

In 1969, he helped found the Addiction Research Treatment Corporation (where he was executive director), one of the largest minority nonprofit community-based substance abuse treatment programs in the country. Dr. Primm has been an adviser to the National Drug Abuse Policy Office since the Nixon administration, and was one of the first to link addiction with the spread of HIV and AIDS. He discovered his first case of HIV in 1981 even before the illness had a name. He represented the U.S. at many international conferences, including the World Health Organization and the International Conference for Ministers of Health on AIDS prevention in London. Widely published in medical texts and journals, he lectured at many colleges, including Columbia, Harvard and New York Universities. Pioneering the problematic relationship between drug abuse and HIV, he believes recent success and treatments have made the public prematurely complacent. He is almost 87 years old and retired (although he does some consulting), and you can get his new book at Amazon.com or in person at several book signings planned for this summer.

Another contributor, the African American educator Frederick Douglass Patterson was born Oct. 10, 1901 and died April 26, 1988. He was the founder of the United Negro College Fund in 1944. For many years he and his family lived in a water view home on Temahigan avenue in East Chop. Named after the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Dr. Patterson served as president of Tuskegee University from 1935 to 1953. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987 as a result of his many accomplishments, among them becoming president of the Phelps Stokes Fund in 1957 and founding the College Endowment Funding Plan in 1975. Originally hailing from Texas, Patterson earned a master’s degree in science and a PhD in veterinary medicine at Iowa State College. He received another PhD from Cornell University in 1932. His family still has long-term ties to Oak Bluffs. Dr. Patterson’s former house is now owned by the Davenport family. Ron Davenport, often referred to as one of the nation’s top constitutional attorneys, earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Pennsylvania State University, an LL.B. degree from Temple University and his master’s from Yale Law School. He started his career as a professor of law at Duquesne University and when appointed dean of the law school in 1970, he became the first black man to be dean of a predominantly white school. Ron has received many acknowledgements and honorary degrees over the years. With his wife Judy, Ron founded Sheridan Broadcasting Corporation, the principal partner of American Urban Radio Networks, the nation’s largest communications medium for black consumers, in 1972. Dr. Judith Davenport was appointed to the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by President Obama in September. A practicing dentist before retiring, an art aficionado and philanthropist, Judy Davenport serves on a number of boards of directors like the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Andy Warhol Museum, and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

Oak Bluffs has a long history — and a promising future — of contributors to black history.

Only a week after the Winnetu Resort’s Mark Snider and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center’s Richard Paradise made the announcement with the Hall family owners forming the Martha’s Vineyard Theatre Foundation to save the Strand (and Capawock) movie theatres, there are commitments of $350,000 in tax deductible funds of the million dollars needed. That’s a third of the way to having the Strand opening soon in summer for movies and community events — please contribute, contact them at info@mvtheaters.org or call 508-310-7837.

Keep your foot on a rock.