Martha’s Vineyard & Slavery

Martha’s Vineyard port of entry

The Original Residents

The vineyard is mostly situated in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. A native Tribe called the Wampanoags were the first people to settle Martha’s Vineyard. They named the island Noepe, meaning “land amid the waters.” The Wampanoags were joined by more Native American tribes, eventually creating a community of 3,000 people divided among four chief tribes.

Slavery and Martha’s Vineyard History

By the end of the 17th century as a port for maritime trade, Martha’s Vineyard also engaged in the slave trade. Evidence shows Africans were regularly bought and sold at the Vineyard. Slaves that remained on the island were usually kept as house servants and farm workers. With the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War, a large number of freed slaves moved to Martha’s Vineyard to work in fisheries. African-Americans from the rest of Massachusetts soon followed and started businesses to support the growing black population.

Race Relations

There is no such thing as Post-Racial, in spite of the attraction of the Vineyard to African Americans, the Island occasionally serves up reminders that a post-racial society does not exist here either. A panel in late May aired the challenges that confront minority students in the Island’s schools, including facing low expectations, isolation, suspicion over their achievements and lack of a diverse teaching staff that can serve as mentors.

Oak Bluffs

Oak Bluffs is still the Island’s black population center. One of the famous Black Enclaves in Martha’s Vineyard with a deep sense of  community will also be linked to the international community as well. One of 10 towns that will be featured in a permanent exhibition called The Power of Place, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum is scheduled to open in 2016.

Shearer Cottage

Oak Bluffs Shearer Cottage,  dates back to 1903. Founded by a former slave.

Author: Goldie G

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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