Monday, August 30, 2010

African-American History on Martha's Vineyard

Today's New York Times is running an interesting article on African-American heritage trail of Martha's Vineyard.

Here is a taste:

The heritage trail includes stops at the houses of former Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, the first black senator after Reconstruction and the first from the North; former Representative Adam Clayton Powell Jr.; and Dorothy West, a Harlem Renaissance writer who for two summers in the 1990s was visited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, another Vineyard resident and a Doubleday editor who guided Ms. West to finish her novel “The Wedding.”

Also on the tour is the oceanfront mansion of Joseph Overton, the onetime Harlem labor leader, which was known as the Summer White House of the civil rights movement. It faces the Inkwell beach, named long ago by black youths or black writers — no one seems certain. The house’s visitors included the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who vacationed on the island with his family a number of times, as well as Joe Louis, Harry Belafonte and Jesse Jackson.

The exclusive Chilmark area has Rebecca’s Field, land that the enslaved Rebecca Amos inherited and farmed until 1801. Edgartown has a plaque honoring the daughter who was taken from her to be enslaved elsewhere, Nancy Michael, called “Black Nance.” It calls her “a most singular character” — in the words of an 1857 obituary — for the spells she conjured for departing ship captains.