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.
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.