Richard Taylor, executive in residence and director of the Sawyer Business School’s Center for Real Estate, has published the book Martha’s Vineyard: Race, Property and the Power of Place.
The book traces the history of Martha’s Vineyard’s African American community since the early 19th century, a time when the island was one of the few places where people of color could own vacation property without discrimination. The Vineyard attracted leading black families, such as those of Dorothy West, a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who for decades represented Harlem in Congress.
Later came Sen. Edward Brooke (R-Mass.) who spent summers on the island, and more recently President Barack Obama.
Taylor argues that, in sinking deep roots into a community unblemished by institutional racism, African Americans were free to focus more closely on cultural, intellectual, public policy, and social activities.
Taylor has worked in the residential and commercial real estate sectors and has served as Massachusetts secretary of transportation. He and his family has summered on Martha’s Vineyard for nearly 40 years, and Taylor shares the reach and depth of his experiences and observations in the book.
“Between the world and me stands Martha’s Vineyard. The immovable foundation built initially by the ‘vision and values’ class of African Americans coupled with a small but distinct middle class that held on to the island with an unrelenting grasp,” he writes. That foundation provided “a ‘trampoline’ that catapulted the bounce of their children, grandchildren and their progeny well into the second decade of the 21st Century and beyond.”