African American History

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Dorothy West’s Highlands Home is Landmark on Heritage Trail

Longtime friends and followers of the late Dorothy West gathered on Saturday afternoon in the shade on a hot August day to pay tribute to the writer, who was the last surviving member of the Harlem renaissance, and to share memories.

Treasure Buried Under Decades of Dust; Denniston Treasures Go to Museum

Linsey Lee emerged from what was once the Vineyard’s first African American church last week peeling a respirator from her face. By her count, she had spent more than 150 hours in the Bradley Memorial Church in Oak Bluffs, and the mask stood as a shield between her and decades of dust.

Zita

Black-Owned Businesses Dwindle on Island

Black-owned businesses on Martha’s Vineyard span its economic and cultural niches while catering to a general audience. They are inns, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants as well as service providers from real estate to holistic weight loss. But many African American business owners, year-rounders, vacationers and community leaders agree that, given the Island’s history and large African American summer population, there are not nearly enough black-owned businesses based here.

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Denniston House Once Served as Spiritual, Educational Center

It may be hard to tell now, but there was a time when the Bradley Memorial Church was arguably the spiritual and social center of Oak Bluffs.

Edward Brooke

Edward Brooke Reflects on Long Political Career

You might expect the first black man ever popularly elected as a United States senator would be out there rooting for the election of the first black President. But no. Edward W. Brooke has never thought race — or gender, for that matter — had anything to do with worthiness.

Polar Bears: Early Morning Ritual Marked by Acceptance

When we think of the Polar Bears of Martha's Vineyard we think of tradition, acceptance,friendship, and now transition.

Forum on Race Relations Draws Full-House Crowd Into Old Whaling Church

With whispers that a hundred more were waiting outside, they filled the hall, charged with the anticipation of hearing the charismatic new voice of the Democratic Party, United States Senatorial candidate from Illinois, Barack Obama, and listening as a panel of luminaries offered their views on Brown vs. Board of Education: Mission Accomplished?

Author Dorothy West Is Celebrated at 90

Dorothy West, the great African-American writer who turned 90 this summer, was the guest of honor at a spectacular birthday party Friday afternoon inside the Union Chapel. Well over 500 people gathered, including First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
 
Miss West, a 50-year resident of Oak Bluffs, is the author of many short stories and two novels, and she is the sole remaining member of the Harlem Renaissance.

Ceremonies at Shearer Cottage Dedicate Historic Site on African American Trail

Shearer Cottage in Oak Bluffs was the first inn on Martha’s Vineyard, and among the first in the nation, to be owned by and cater to black people. It now has been dedicated to the man for who founded the inn, and is a key stop on the Vineyard’s Heritage Trail.
 
Named for Charles Shearer, the cottage is the culmination of this man’s journey to prosperity.
 
Charles Shearer was born into slavery in Virginia. During the Civil War he assisted Union soldiers as a hunter, and in turn received his freedom.

Heritage Trail: Island Project Shows Story of Black History

In the Waterview Farm area of Oak Bluffs is a boulder as tall as a man. Back in the 1790s, the Rev. John Saunders de­livered his sermons here, from atop “Pulpit Rock.” Mr. Saunders, who was African-American, was one of the first people to preach Methodism on Martha’s Vineyard.
 
But for anyone who doesn’t know the story, this is just a rock in an Oak Bluffs subdiyision.

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