Use the Built Story app to take your own Oak Bluffs tour of African American history

In 2010 Thomas Dresser wrote a book titled “African Americans on Martha’s Vineyard: From Enslavement to the President’s Visit”, inspired by then-President Barack Obama’s visit to Martha’s vineyard the year before he didn’t expect the book to be one Would be bestseller, but he now says he understands why it sells more than his other books on ghosts, Indians, whaling, or music

Dresser began writing about Martha’s Vineyard on bus tours about 20 years ago. This year, inspired by those tours and using research from his own book, Dresser was asked to design the Oak Bluffs African American History Tour This Is a COVID-friendly tour that you can take in the comfort of your own car with the Built Story app

While the tour can’t be as deep as the book, there is something magical about seeing the historical landmarks in person.It’s no secret that Oak Bluffs is a beautiful place, but it’s a privilege to see like this one Beauty is enhanced by a rich, important story

Dresser’s personal favorite stop is Villa Rosa, a stunning orange and red house that overlooks Inkwell Beach. He says, “A number of prominent African Americans have vacationed there, so you’ve got someone from Malcolm X. to a Philip Randolph to Joe Louis, “Martin Luther King Jr. himself spent two summers there, and while researching his book, Dresser found an old letter from King to the Vineyard Gazette that they knew nothing about before

“Then-Gazette editor Henry Beetle Hough wanted to interview Martin Luther King in the summer of ’61, and King said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have time to spend interviewing with you. I’m editing my sermon manuscript and have no time Maybe next year “It was just a brush but it was very cool”

It feels extraordinary to think back to this story while standing in front of the veranda of Villa Rosa, which is guarded by two wild stone lions. Unfortunately, not every stop of the tour is still intact

The Denniston house, former Denniston family home and popular black church, was demolished in 2018.Dresser was part of a movement to preserve it, but the house fell apart and had become a financial burden. He says, “Because that House as an African American church and home to a prominent family had historical primacy but had no up-to-date support system to keep it going, should they put it up when they tore it off a plaque that was part of the deal but we haven’t seen the plaque yet so there are such things that somehow leave a bad taste, which is why I have to hurry to preserve the story with the written word and pictures ”

Fortunately, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum was able to collect some documents from the house before it was demolished

Other artifacts that you cannot find on the tour include the bench and signpost of Shearer Cottage, the oldest black inn in Martha’s vineyard.The current owner, Lee Van Allen, donated them to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Dresser saw the exhibition and found it inspiring. He says,

“I went to Washington and saw the bank and the signpost for Shearer Cottage,” he says, “and it made me feel like we were here in little old Oak Bluffs and we just think, here we’re on our little island and nobody knows about us, but people go to this museum, it’s very popular It’s just cool that we’re represented at the bottom of DC This puts Shearer Cottage on a pedestal and with it the whole tour ”

To do the tour yourself, all you need to do is download the Built Story app from your builtstory app store, com It costs $ 10 and will remain available for 30 days after purchase This is helpful if you have some research to do or want to revisit a specific location.The instructions are easy to understand and you can move around at your own pace, for several days if you wish

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World news – FI – Time travel – The Martha’s Vineyard Times