The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom accepted the Martha’s Vineyard African American Heritage Trail site “Randall Burton,” also known as “Edgar Jones,” as the second Vineyard site to join the program. The site is located in Aquinnah.
It was dedicated in 2002 on West Basin Road, and honors the efforts of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) in the 1854 escape of escaped slave Randall Burton.
Speaking to The Times by phone, Heritage Trail executive director Elaine Weintraub said Burton was hidden and rescued by tribe member Beulah Washington Vanderhoop.
“She was fundamental in the rescue, and with her family, hid him from the sheriff who was pursuing him. It was against the law to help a fugitive from enslavement,” Weintraub said. “They helped him anyway, and they got him to New Bedford, and they got him to Canada.”
After extensive research and cross-referencing stories, Weintraub worked with the tribe and the town to put together an application to submit to the Network to Freedom.
“We’re very pleased,” Weintraub said. “It’s nice to look at it and say, Now these stories will be told. It will be the people’s history, everyone’s story. It’s really exciting.”
The Aquinnah site is now one of 682 sites in 39 states that are part of the Network to Freedom, including an Edgartown Harbor site, which was the first on the Island. The Edgartown site honors Esther, a woman who escaped slavery.
“There’s a whole hidden history that we’re uncovering step by step, first with Esther in Edgartown, and now in Aquinnah,” Weintraub said. “The work will go on.”