The Little-Known Black History Of Martha's Vineyard

sidewalk by the seaside
Briona Lamback
August 23, 2022

Our people have been calling Oak Bluffs, an enclave of Martha's Vineyard, home since the 1800s. The first wave of people to arrive at the Massachusetts hideaway were indentured servants, whalers, and domestic workers. 

Another wave came because the island was once an Underground Railroad stop. Eventually, many purchased property, built beautiful homes and spread the word to our people.

Their dollhouse-like homes, known as gingerbread houses, line the streets with colorful, pastel-painted exterior, perhaps a reflection of the peace and joy our people finally felt. 

But there’s something even more important than pretty houses here.

We can let go! 

Maya Angelou described Oak Bluffs as "a safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned."  Our people don’t need our “armor” on Martha’s Vineyard.

White supremacy has ensured that leisure doesn't come easy for us. But many believe that Oak Bluffs is where our people genuinely exist in community, caring for one another, and where the warm feeling of a family reunion rests in the air. 

Today there are Black-owned accommodations like The Oak Bluffs Inn, shops like Lenox & Harvey, Black Greek Week, and a film festival.

Of course, no place is a complete paradise void of the ills of a white supremacist society. But we do deserve summertime (and beyond) sanctuaries like this!

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