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Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard

Historic Sites, Monuments, Landmarks, and Public Art ()


Oak Bluffs is a historic African American summer community located on the island of Martha’s Vineyard near Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It was established in 1890 when Baptist and Methodist revival meetings brought African American and white visitors to this island. The island began developing as a resort community with these summer religious gatherings and remains a popular resort community today.

Shearer Cottage
Oak Bluffs
African American Visitors of Oak Bluffs


With the African American and white religious pilgrimages to this island, African Americans became servants to the white visitors. Over time, the African Americans on the island began owning property and living there year round. They also became small business owners and entrepreneurs on the island. This lead to the attraction of more African American visitors from a variety of eastern cities. The property and businesses owned by African Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries continues to be owned by their family today.

One business that was founded by an African American entrepreneur on the island was Shearer Cottage. Shearer Cottage was a vacation inn that was founded in 1912 by Charles and Henrietta Shearer. The inn was originally founded as a laundry business by Henrietta in 1903 when she was a young entrepreneur. This inn is the oldest business on the island that catered to African Americans and it continues to be operated today by the descendants of Charles and Henrietta.

After World War II, more African Americans moved to Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard and brought their families for permanent residence. They bought houses which have dramatically increased in value over the years making Oak Bluffs one of the wealthiest African American resort communities. The African American community that began in Oak Bluffs has expanded all over the island over time and continues to be that way today. 


“Martha’s Vineyard,” BlackPast, Accessed April 23, 2015. “Oak Bluffs Massachusetts,” The Washington Post, Accessed April 23, 2015.

4 Morgan Ave
Oak Bluffs, MA 02568
  • African American History
This location was created on 2015-04-28 by Katy Taylor, Marshall University; Instructed by David J. Trowbridge.   It was last updated on 2016-02-24 by Katy Taylor, Marshall University; Instructed by David J. Trowbridge.

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  • I thought the picture number 4 of 4, was from Idle Wild Club in Michigan

    Maria Ross on 2016-08-19

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