O.B. to hold public forum on Civil War plaques

The Oak Bluffs Civil War monument was meant as a gesture to mend the tensions between the North and South, but the MVNAACP says this plaque belongs in a museum.

Oak Bluffs is holding a public forum at the request of the Island’s chapter of the NAACP to discuss its request to remove two plaques from the Civil War monument in Ocean Park and donate them to the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.

The request to remove the plaques became a contentious and fraught issue in town back in March, when Island NAACP president Erik Blake, who is also the town’s police chief, asked selectmen to remove the plaques, which the civil rights organization said honored Confederate soldiers.

The plaque on the statue reads: “‘The chasm is closed.’ In memory of the restored Union this tablet is dedicated by the Union veterans of the Civil War and patriotic citizens of Martha’s Vineyard in honor of the Confederate soldiers.”

The other plaque, which is on the ground, gives a history of the statue.

The Soldiers’ Memorial Fountain was commissioned in 1891 by Charles Strahan, a Confederate veteran and a publisher of the Martha’s Vineyard Herald. The plaque on the statue was put up in 1925.

The forum will begin with remarks from selectmen chairman Brian Packish before going into a historical perspective presentation from museum research librarian A. Bowdoin Van Riper. Public comment and discussion will follow before selectmen deliberate and take a potential vote.

The forum will take place on Tuesday, May 21, from 6 to 8 pm at the Oak Bluffs School cafeteria, 50 Tradewind Road, Oak Bluffs.

The public can either attend the meeting or send an email to office administrator Alice Butler at abutler@oakbluffsma.gov with questions or comments.