Points 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15: The Town of Oak Bluffs
|Oak Bluffs is a diverse community
and home to much African American history, as well as dignitaries,
politicians, artists, and writers. Oak Bluffs has a large African
American community particularly in the summer season when many families
vacation along the clean sandy shores of Nantucket Sound. In July
and August one of the most popular spots for this vibrant, diverse
community is The Inkwell Beach along Beach Road at the bottom of
Waban Park. A beautiful swimming spot, the Inkwell has traditionally
been a meeting place for African American families and visitors.
There is a dawn swimming group and activities continue throughout
the day until dark. While not included as a historic point on the
trail, it is truly a unique place and deserves note.
There are 7 Heritage Trail Points included in this Oak Bluffs page:
the old Eastville Cemetery, Pulpit Rock, the home of Dorothy West,
the Shearer Cottage, the Gospel Tabernacle, and the Bradley Memorial
Church. We are currently adding Trail Points on the home of Louisa
Izett and a bench honoring the African American landladies of Oak
Bluffs soon. Other trail sites located in Oak Bluffs are Martha's
Vineyard Regional High School and the Isabel
and Adam Clayton Powell Cottage.
#8. The Bradley Memorial Church
is located on 11 Masonic Avenue. The church provided spiritual guidance,
religious education, community development, social life, and involvement
in humanitarian causes from 1907-1966. The Reverend Oscar
Denniston was the founder and pastor until his death in
Cemetary stone photo by Charlie Utz
#9. The Eastville Cemetery is
an old cemetery near the shores of the Lagoon Pond that has been
sadly neglected. It was the burial place for "mariners from
far away", people of color, and vagrants. Rebecca Michael,
mother of Captain William Martin, may possibly have been buried
here, and her life is celebrated here by a bench bearing a plaque
with her name.
#10. The Shearer Cottage on
Rose Avenue was originally purchased by Charles and Henrietta Shearer
from the Baptist Campground. It was originally operated as a laundry,
and later became the first African American-owned guest house on
Martha's Vineyard, where people of color were welcome to stay. Adam
Clayton Powell was a frequent guest there, as were Henry Burleigh,
William H. Lewis, Ethel Waters, and Paul Robeson. The Shearer Cottage
is still owned and operated by the Shearer family descendant. You
can visit their website here. Here's
an article published by the Martha's Vineyard Times about the
#11 The Gospel Tabernacle is
on Dukes County Avenue. It once served as a church for a congregation
of African American people during the mid-20th centrally. The Reverend
Charles L. Johnson and his wife, Reverend Scotta Bertha Johnson,
ministered to summer congregations.
#12 The Powell Cottage. The
Powell Cottage, known as "The Bunny Cottage", was owned
by Adam Clayton Powell, the first African American congressman
from the east coast since Reconstruction, and also a Reverend at
the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. He was a highly influential
leader of the Democratic majority during the passage of the civil
rights legislation of the 1960's and 1970's. This home was left
to his wife, Isabel W. Powell, following their divorce in 1945.
More on the Powell House here.
# 13 Home of Dorothy West
Dorothy West was an African American writer and the last
surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance group. She was a member
of the Vineyard community for many years. Her home stands on Myrtle
Avenue and she also has the distinction of having a nearby street
named in her honor.
Landladies of Oak Bluffs
At 121 Lower Circuit, Mrs. Georgia O’Brien and Ms.
Louisa Izett ran a guest house for people of color. In
those times, the the inn was known as Aunt Georgia’s House.