Dr. King and Mrs. Coretta Scott King did it. So did Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Paul Robeson. Barack and Michelle Obama currently do it. So does Spike Lee and Tonya Lee.
If you’ve never “done” the Vineyard — that’s taken a vacation on the storied Martha’s Vineyard, an island haven just outside of Boston, Massachusetts — then you are truly missing out on a treasured experience filled with rustic excursion and rich history.
You can experience the isle during one of the many “official” last days of summer. On Labor Day for instance, they’ll be hundreds upon hundreds of folks arriving for their inaugural visit, along with long-time weekenders on holiday and lifetime residents eating fresh ice cream cones, all while visiting art galleries or strolling the warmed beaches for clam bakes and cool dips. You may just want to encounter the island on its original tranquil and easy pace during the coming Indian Summer. Watch the vibrant yellow, fire engine red, and outrageous orange palettes made by the autumn leaves as you listen to the soft, strong, and soft again winds coming from the Atlantic Sea. With a cup of apple cider in one hand and a lover’s in the other, you will spiral into a wondrous joy of a 100 lifetimes. All just a part of the special spirit that is the bliss of this magical place.
Robert Hayden, veteran Vineyard resident and scholar, spearheaded Martha’s Vineyard’s branch of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH) and is credited with archiving and celebrating the rich African history on the island everyday and through special ritual ceremonies during African Diasporic History Month. Hayden has also authored and edited 19 books about the history and life of Africans in the Americas including African-Americans on Martha’s Vineyard: A History of People, Places and Events.
Hayden’s research took him to the captive depository that became the island in the early 1700s or the early documented centuries’ settlement of Africans here with hours of interviews and scores of newspaper articles and old photographs from individuals and families making up the bulk of data for his passionate work.
According to a Hayden’s Martha Vineyard Times interview, the African-American population increased on the island along with major national and local political focus periods involving fugitive “slaves” and “free” Africans of America who occupied the island in the Pre-Civil War period. America’s recorded emancipation and subsequent leisure class formation, including financially prosperous African-American families especially in the Oak Bluffs enclave.
“‘Historically, there are five major African-American resorts,’ he notes, identifying Oak Bluffs; Sag Harbor on Long Island in New York; Highland Beach, near Annapolis, Maryland; Cape May, New Jersey; and Idlewild in rural northwestern Michigan,” according to the MV Times.
Among the top recommended places to visit on the island includes the Inkwell. Legend has it that whites circulated the story that the waters of this beach became “black like ink” as African-Americans swam in it and hence the name “Inkwell” was given. This beach has offered a swim club, yoga sessions, kayaking, jet skiing, and wind surfing for the avid adventurers. Beach blankets and beach reads, wine spritzers and soft jazz playlists are allowed for the more laidback set.
The Black Dog cafe has a lunch treat for you in Vineyard Haven. Don’t forget to grab your t-shirt or cap from the gift shop to commemorate your visit.
Before dinner, head over to the home of famed African-American writer Dorothy West. Her Doubleday editor and friend Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis worked together for many years on the island. West’s poignant novel The Wedding was also written here.