August 16, 1998

Oak Bluffs Writer Dorothy West Dies


On this day in 1998, Dorothy West died on Martha's Vineyard. The Boston-born writer was the last living member of the Harlem Renaissance, a movement of African American artists, writers, and musicians that energized American culture in the 1920s. Although profoundly influenced by her years in New York, West was strongly tied to Massachusetts — to the exclusive society of Boston's "Black Brahmins" in which she was raised and to the Martha's Vineyard town of Oak Bluffs where she spent idyllic childhood summers and where she lived for the last half of her life. From her cottage in Oak Bluffs, the former Methodist revival camp that became the nation's first black resort, West wrote stories and novels that illuminated the class- and color-consciousness she observed first hand in African American society.

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