African American History

For Friendship and to Pay It Forward

On Wednesday, elder members and former presidents of the Cottagers gathered around tables and took turns sharing memories.

Looking at History and In the Mirror Are Keys to Addressing Pillars of Racism

Politics are poisoned by bitter partisanship, economic disparities between whites and minorities are widening and trust between these groups seems to be eroding, complicating efforts to bridge America’s divisions. These were among the many observations by panelists at the annual Hutchins Forum Thursday evening in Edgartown.

Boxing Her Way to Equality and Justice

The African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard began as part of a promise to a little boy, and in 1998 the Shearer Cottage was dedicated as the first site on the Trail. The ambition was to reach a total of eight sites. That there were many stories was obvious, but the depth and range of the experiences that make up the tapestry of the African American experience on Martha’s Vineyard was amazing. From fugitive preachers to nationally known politicians, all the struggles and triumphs of people of color were part of the story of this Island.

Black Summer Theatre's History Retold

Editor’s Note: Olive Tomlinson spoke with Linsey Lee, oral history curator for the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, about her recollections of Liz White’s Shearer Summer Theatre, one of the first summer theatre groups on the Island after World War II. An actress who felt stymied by the stereotyped African American roles available to her on Broadway, in the summers Liz returned to Oak Bluffs where her family owned and operated Shearer Cottage, a popular inn for vacationing African Americans.
shearer cottage

Long Legacy of Open Doors Shearer Cottage Turns 100

The day before the centennial celebration of Shearer Cottage in Oak Bluffs, Gretchen Tucker Underwood noticed that the landscaping around the 100-year-old red inn on Rose avenue was not quite ready for the impending party.

Skip Gates.

W.E.B. Du Bois Panel Tackles Hard Questions of Poverty

There were plenty of problems on the table and few easy solutions at hand as an influential panel convened Thursday evening to discuss the issue that has gone unnoticed in this issue-laden presidential election year: unemployment and high poverty rates in the African American community.

When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, few “would have anticipated that in the year 2012, we would have the largest black middle class in American history,” said forum host Dr. Henry Louis (Skip) Gates Jr.

Skip Gates

Hosting Forums, Finding Roots And Three-Wheeling with a Friend

Henry Louis (Skip) Gates Jr. is passionate about roots. The Harvard professor, writer and genealogist first started on a family tree as a nine-year-old, after his grandfather’s burial, wanting to know about his connection to his father and grandfather. He’s followed his passion in his professional life, through scholarship and his popular television shows tracing people’s genealogy, and in the personal realm: still working on the family tree, he is trying to find the identity of his great-great-grandfather.

shearer cottage

Cottagers Tour Strides Through Island’s African American History

The Highlands, as they are familiarly known, are located on East Chop, the general boundary being laid out like the Methodist Camp Ground in Oak Bluffs, with a central circle ringed by house lots along curving avenues.
prayer

African Americans on Martha’s Vineyard, Then and Now

On a recent sparkling morning at Inkwell Beach, summer resident and retired Boston judge Ed Redd emerged from his daily swim and carefully considered a question: Does Martha’s Vineyard still retain a certain magic for African Americans — longtime residents and new visitors alike? Judge Redd, a barrel-chested, affable ambassador for the Polar Bears, the historic group that finds invigoration and spirituality in morning swims at the Inkwell from July 4 to Labor Day, didn’t pause for long.
Henry Lewis Gates podium microphone

Poverty and Failure of Education System Weigh on Black Students

Since 1968, the black middle class in America has quadrupled, Henry Louis (Skip) Gates told a packed house at the Edgartown Whaling Church on Thursday evening.

But that was the only positive news in an otherwise bleak survey of the state of black education by a panel of experts convened by Professor Gates and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

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