Rebecca Amos plaque restored

Marker honoring formerly enslaved Chilmark resident is back on the African American Heritage Trail.

An anonymous Chilmark resident donated $1,000 towards replacing the stolen plaque. —Elaine Weintraub

A plaque honoring Rebecca Amos, which went missing in April, and was presumed stolen, has been replaced at its former site on the African American Heritage Trail.

Rebecca, a woman formerly enslaved on Martha’s Vineyard, lived in Chilmark in the 18th century until her death in 1801. 

“Rebecca died a free woman in this place,” the old plaque read. The plaque was affixed to a rock along the Heritage Trail at the second stop, following the one at Shearer Cottage. 

Dr. Elaine Weintraub, co-founder of the Heritage Trail, was the first to notice the disappearance of the plaque, and notified Chilmark Police on April 3. 

Shortly afterward, the African American Heritage Trail began collecting donations to cover the cost of a replacement plaque. A Chilmark resident who preferred to remain anonymous donated $1,000, stating that they were concerned about the importance of recognizing African-American history and its impact on Martha’s Vineyard.

Weintraub said they plan to hold a dedication ceremony within the week. “We want to invite the community and everybody who donated to replace the plaque, as well as have the Charter School attend,” Weintraub said. 

“I very much want to have young people there; it’s important. The whole point of rescuing this history and sharing it is to make sure it doesn’t get lost again,” Weintraub added.

Rebecca was married to Elisha Amos, a Wampanoag man who acquired land in the 1750s and ’60s, and under Massachusetts law at the time of her husband’s death, Rebecca gained the title to a field at Great Rock Bight for the rest of her lifetime.

“Rebecca, the woman from Africa whom we honor there, was enslaved in Chilmark, but she also inherited property from her Native American husband in that area, down by the water, and we feel it’s important to commemorate her as meaningfully as possible in a place that she would remember,” Weintraub stated. 

The Heritage Trail is also planning a statue honoring Rebecca to be built at Native Earth Teaching Farm on North Road in Chilmark, about a mile up the road from the plaque.

“That sculpture will be seven feet tall, and will depict Rebecca and the interconnectedness of the generations that followed her and her family,” Weintraub said. 

Notable family members of Rebecca include William Martin, her great-grandson, who was born in 1829; according to the African American Heritage website, he became “the only African American whaling captain from Martha’s Vineyard.”

Sculptor Barney Zeitz is planning to begin the statue on Monday; however, Weintraub predicted that it could take quite a while because it is such an ambitious project. 

“Rebecca is very precious to me. Here we have a story that should be told, that educates us about what history really is and what really happened, which also gives honor to her and her life and includes her in the history of the Island,” Weintraub said.

The Heritage Trail has insured the site in case incidents like this happen again. They previously considered installing solar-powered light fixtures, but ultimately decided against it, in an effort to avoid disruption to the surrounding wildlife. 

“I feel enormous gratitude to the people who donated to reinstate this plaque,” Weintraub said. “We could get really upset and sad and say ‘that’s so awful,’ or we can say, ‘Look how many people rallied around to help us, and look at who honored Rebecca.’” 

The dedication ceremony will be held at the site of the plaque at Great Rock Bight Preserve, and more information about the ceremony will be posted on the Heritage Trail website in the next few days. 

“I’m thrilled to think she’ll be back where she belongs, and Rebecca won’t get forgotten again,” Weintraub said.


  1. I’m so glad this new plaque for Rebecca has been placed. I’ve often stopped at that spot to wonder what her original name was, and what her life was like before she was kidnapped and enslaved. The words on the original plaque were poignant; I hope the new plaque repeats them. Thank you to the donors and everyone at the African America Heritage Trail who made this happen.

  2. We are thrilled to hear that the plaque has been restored at Great Rock Bight and Rebecca will not be forgotten. Thank you so much Elaine Weintraub for your hard work and for caring and creating the African American Heritage trail.

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