Born just one generation away from enslavement, William A. Martin was given the opportunity to change his life around from being poverty stricken to becoming the only African American Master of Whaling Ships on Martha's Vineyard. Martin not only turned his life around, but also inspired the lives of many African Americans to follow.
William Martin was born in Edgartown in 1829 to his mother Rebecca. He grew up in a house with his mother and his grandmother, Nancy. This was right around the time when Edgartown was becoming involved in the maritime trade. In 1857, after his voyage on the Europa he married a young slave girl name Sarah Brown. She was living as a maid for a Family by the name of Pease on the Chappaquidick Plantation. After the wedding he moved in with her family. This marriage would serve as being long and happy, and in 1907 they celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary. When the Vineyard Gazette printed the announcement, it appeared that the Edgartown population was very fond of the Martins.

Martin embarked on many whaling voyages. In 1883 he captained the schooner Emma Jane. On this trip he brought back with him 140 tons of Sperm Oil. In 1887 he served as the keeper of the logbook for the Eunice H. Adams on a voyage to the North Atlantic. Along with these voyages William took part in many others, each one lasting years at a time, and making him more and more popular for advanced whaling skills.

William A. Martin led a full and very successful life on The Vineyard. His Whaling talents were well respected and thought highly upon, giving him the responsibilities of Martha's Vineyard's whale man. Martin's burial ground, also Chappaqudick, isn't the most common scene. His gravestone faces the opposite direction of all the others, which all face the beautiful ocean he once went whaling in. Why his is turned away isn't known. Was he tired of whaling? Did something go wrong at sea? What ever the reason may be William Martin no longer looks upon the ocean.
However through all that he established from being Martha's Vineyard first whaling captain, and earning a place on the Heritage trail. William A. Martin was valued and made an important impact on his community