Oak Bluffs – Summer's Home For Elite Blacks

Home of the black elites
Home of the black elites

Washington Post Staff Writer DeNeen L. Brown wrote an interesting? August 20, 2009 About how Americas Elite blacks are flocking to Martha’s Vineyard to take their annual holidays.

Over the 4 page web article. Brown highlights the fact that this isn’t a new phenomenon, but a generational thing. Black families have been attracted to the area for well over 100 years. The first African Americans to visit the area were attracted by the areas safeness.

The town was once a Methodist retreat where anti-racism sermons were preached.? Some of the first African Americans? to visit the area came as servants to wealthy white families. Others worked in the hotels. These early pioneers were later followed by, elite blacks from New York, Boston and Washington retreated here for summer vacations

Further down the road is West’s cottage, and farther down the road is Shearer Cottage, an inn built by a Charles Shearer, the son of a slave and a slave master. Shearer built the inn to provide lodging for blacks during segregation. Famous guests included singers Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters and Lillian Evanti; and composer Harry T. Burleigh as well as Madame CJ Walker, an early self-made millionaire . More recent visitors and home owners include Henry Louis Gates Jnr, Spike Lee and Valerie Jarrett.

It’s all about class and money. American high flyers from the Black middle classes are acutely aware of their position in the social strata. Money is known and respected; though not necessarily flaunted. The Area has been described as “The black Hamptons”.

Despite the emphasis on class and regular “summering”, there is a group in Marthas Vineyard that doesn’t let class and breeding affect your membership. That is the early morning swimming group, “The polar Bears”. The group takes the name, somewhat ironically because of the cold temperature of the sea in the early morning.

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