The African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard gained its 37th site Thursday when a plaque honoring late Island historian Robert (Bob) Carter Hayden Jr. was unveiled at the Oak Bluffs Library. 

Dozens of friends, family and colleagues of Mr. Hayden, who died in January 2022, assembled in the library’s first-floor meeting room to celebrate his contributions to African American history preservation and advocacy on the Island and beyond. 

“[Mr. Hayden] would be thrilled to know that we have continued to chase the dream of equality, and now have a dedicated site to all aspects of the African American experience,” said Elaine Cawley Weintraub, executive director and co-founder of the African American Heritage Trail, which honors the historically unrecognized efforts of people of African descent on the Island. 

A New Bedford native, Mr. Hayden was the author or editor of more than 19 books on African American history and held several positions at schools around New England, including assistant superintendent of the Boston Public School system from 1982 to 1987.

After relocating to the Vineyard in the 1990s, Mr. Hayden began leading African American history tours of the Island and founded a Vineyard branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He also worked closely with the Oak Bluffs library to develop a collection of resources on the Island’s African American history — made up almost entirely of books he owned personally — that is housed on the library’s second floor. 

“I’ve been director here since 2016, and 30 days after I began work here, Bob Hayden said, ‘Congratulations on your new job. Your library has a lot of work to do,’” said Allyson Malik, the Oak Bluffs library director. “The library worked incredibly long and hard with Bob… to create what became our African American resource collection. There’s nothing else like it on Martha’s Vineyard.” 

Kevin Hayden, Mr. Hayden’s son, said that his dad’s passion for African American history largely defined his childhood. 

“In my house, Black History Month was every month and every day of every month,” Kevin said tearfully. “So I know that he’s smiling down right now, beaming about the legacy that’s been left.”

To close the ceremony, attendees gathered outside to watch the reveal of the plaque, which is installed in a boulder beside the library’s gazebo. Together, Mr. Hayden’s family members pulled off a scarf draped over the plaque, followed by audience applause, cheers and tears. 

“This plaque is huge because we couldn’t figure out anything that we could leave out about Bob,” said Ms. Cawley Weintraub. “It includes who he was, and all he achieved, and how he stood up for justice.”