Welcome to the African American Heritage Trail of Martha's Vineyard (a Massachusetts nonprofit corporation). Take a fully narrated tour:
Tours run throughout the summer
We are the builders of the Trail! Now comprising 30 sites
- A Cultural heritage tourism program
- Research and share the Vineyard's African American history
- economic opportunity for Vineyard youth
- Mentorship of Vineyard youth
- Advocacy for students in the Vineyard's public schools
- Educational programs in the Vineyard's schools
Founders of the African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard
Carrie Camillo Tankard and Elaine Cawley Weintraub met in 1989 and recognized that they had a common mission. Both women were determined to introduce the history of people of color into the Vineyard schools.
As a teacher, Elaine, who is of Irish heritage, realized that the students did not have access to the African American history of the Vineyard and found that history was not available anywhere, and so began her research. That research uncovered a rich, undocumented history. She will never forget the years spent researching old archives, burial records, birth records, wills and the joy of finding the career of William A. Martin, and the obituary of his remarkable grandmother, Nancy Michael. William A. Martin’s great grandmother was Rebecca Amos, the woman from Africa enslaved on the Vineyard.
Ms. Carrie, who is of African American and Latina heritage, had spent many years in her role as vice president of the NAACP of Martha’s Vineyard visiting the Island schools, presenting them with teaching materials, and strongly advocating for an inclusive history. For several years, she presented exhibits showcasing African American history in all of the Vineyard libraries.
In 1989, they began their plan to combine their areas of expertise and the notion of building a physical Trail celebrating the stories of African American people on the Island was born. Their vision was to place bronze markers on the selected sites that told the story. They envisioned creating a Trail of four sites, and in 1998 dedicated the Shearer Cottage, the Vineyard’s oldest African American owned inn. Over the years, an active cultural heritage program was created and this helped to finance the further building of the Trail. In 2019, they dedicated site number 30, the Dukes County Courthouse where the career of Judge Herbert E. Tucker was celebrated.
They will continue to build the Trail, and dedicate many more sites.
The African American Heritage Trail continues to offer the cultural heritage tourism program and educational programs for schools and colleges, employment opportunities within the Vineyard community, and provides mentorships, scholarships for graduating seniors from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and advocacy services for students experiencing difficulty within the school system. The Cultural Heritage tour program each summer generates the income to provide all of these services, and to continue to build the Trail. The tours offered are authentically researched and our tour leaders are educated to provide a unique experience for our visitors.
Those who build the Trail can tell its story!