A Massachusetts African American Says Blacks Have Been An Important Part Of Martha`s Vineyard For 300 Years
August 04, 2009, 05:00 AM
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From: Leroy Paige (e-mail him)

Re: Steve Sailer`s Blog: My New Taki Column: Gates, Obama and the Black Overclass

I`m curious why so many people are shocked that the Obama family will vacation on Martha`s Vineyard or why they`re surprised when they learn that Oprah Winfrey and other well-to-do blacks spend their summers on the island.

Blacks have been on Martha`s Vineyard since the first wave of enslaved Africans during the 1700s through the recent arrival of affluent retirees, many of whom were once summer visitors or part-time residents.

Moreover in 1998, Winfrey filmed a two-part television series on the island. Titled The Wedding and starring Halle Berry, it dealt with a single black father to three multiracial children.

According to black educator and historian Robert Hayden, the Vineyard`s African-American population increased in correlation with major national and local events: fugitive slaves and free blacks arrived in the pre-Civil War period; free men and women arrived after the emancipation of slavery; another large influx occurred during the mid-to late-1860s when a leisure class developed on Martha`s Vineyard.  By the early 1900s, affluent black families had begun to buy homes and land on Martha`s Vineyard, particularly in Oak Bluffs where the summer colony of Methodists had spawned a boom in employment opportunities for people of all ethnicities.

Hayden noted in his research that the development of an African-American population on Martha`s Vineyard is unique, however, because it increased in tandem with the growth of the white community.

Summarized Hayden:

"Blacks on Martha`s Vineyard have been involved in every  aspect of  life here for over 300 years, from the maritime  industry to agriculture and tourism. Unlike other resorts where  people of color were not part of the year-round fabric, blacks on  Martha`s Vineyard have made significant contributions to the  culture as we know it." [Black History Month Brings Vineyard Past History to Life, by Karla Araujo, Martha`s Vineyard Times, February 19, 2009]

Paige works for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority