One thing to really appreciate about the island of Martha’s Vineyard is the fact that it’s a blending pot of many cultures. In the summers, the Island attracts people from all over the world to work, vacation, and potentially even find their forever home. But well before the Island caught the eyes of hundreds of thousands of tourists per year, the Island, much like the majority of New England, was home to the slave trade and segregation
Founded in 1998, the African American Heritage Trail is a nonprofit whose mission is to uncover the unspoken past about people of color on the Island. The main focus of the organization has always been to educate. Consequently, much time has been spent working with Island schools to disseminate an accurate and inclusive history that previously went undocumented.
In fact, the most recent site is actually the only monument on the Vineyard dedicated to enslaved people and created by children. Located at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School in West Tisbury, The Nameless Trail remembers those who lost their names through the crime of enslavement. Grades 5 and 6 at the Charter School were big contributors to the project, painting rocks to honor those who had no names during their enslavement on the Island.
The Nameless Trail is only one stop on the African American Heritage Trail. With over thirty sites across the Island (even on Chappaquiddick), the Trail dedicates these sites to the formerly unrecognized contributions made by people of African descent to Island history. The nonprofit offers a variety of driving and walking narrated tours, which provide “hands-on'' experiences of the African American Heritage Trail’s work and mission. You can sign up for a tour with the whole family on the African American Heritage Trail website.
Make your trip to Martha’s Vineyard both educational and exciting with a tour around the African American Heritage Trail. Some sites include Inkwell Beach in Oak Bluffs, Edgartown Harbor (which is now recognized as part of the Underground Railroad), the fishing village of Menemsha, and more. You can see a full list of sites here.
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