Remembering the Island’s past

The African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard is a great way to uncover more about the history of the Island.

The African American Heritage Trail on the Island celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, and each year extends the trail adding more stops that honor the role of African Americans on the Island. The nonprofit was cofounded by Carrie Camillo Tankard and Elaine Cawley Weintraub, both serious about education. Friends since 1989, the two women had a single goal of introducing the history of people of color into the Vineyard schools. Their intention has expanded over the years and currently there are more than 35 sites commemorated with descriptive plaques all over the Island, including the first one — Shearer Cottage.

Described by Weintraub as “the center of African American culture in the Historic Highlands in Oak Bluffs for five generations.” Shearer Cottage, she said, “represented the whole African American experience from the horrors of enslavement to achievement through hard work, community, pride and ambition.”

Weintraub explained that the nonprofit African American Heritage Trail History Project researches and shares history, identifying sites and providing the bronze plaques honoring particular sites as “deeply significant to the story of people of color on Martha’s Vineyard.”

The most recent addition to the trail will be dedicated in June.

“It is the former boarding house of Taylor’s Playfair on Pocasset Avenue in Oak Bluffs,” Weintraub says. “It operated as an inn for many years by the Taylor family and is featured in the Smithsonian African American museum as an example of the enterprise and endeavors of African American women in Oak Bluffs who created. a safe and welcoming environment for African American visitors and seasonal workers.”

Weintraub and Tankard invite everyone to get to know the trail and the deep African American history on the Island.

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