In a secluded clearing near a field in North Chilmark on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, a copper plaque on a stone celebrates the life of a black woman and former slave named Rebecca. This memorial is one of 17 sites that make up the African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard. These sites are scattered throughout the Island and trace the history of black people on the Island dating from the 1700’s.
According to a book describing the Trail, Rebecca was born in Guinea, West Africa, survived the agony of the Middle Passage, and was a slave at a farm in Chilmark. She had at least three children, who also appear to have been enslaved. At some point in her life, she was married to a Wampanoag man who upon his death left her property and his home for use during her life. Rebecca was the great grandmother of William A. Martin, the only African American whaling captain to sail out of Martha’s Vineyard.
Rebecca’s plaque reads:
- Rebecca, Woman of Africa
Born in Africa and enslaved
She married Elisha Amos,
A Wampanoag Man.
She was the mother of Nancy Michael.
Rebecca died a free woman in this place
For more information on the Heritage Trail and Rebecca, please see “Lighting the Trail” by Elaine Cawley Weintraub (2005) and visit mvheritagetrail.org.