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As a getaway for two Democratic presidents, including the current one, Martha’s Vineyard is often disparaged as an undemocratic haven for wealthy white elites.

Kathlyn Joy Gilliam and Lorraine Parson thought differently from what they had read in black history books, and longed to visit.

“It’s always been said this is where the elite African-Americans came,” said Ms. Parson, 74. Mrs. Gilliam, her 79-year-old sister, added, “I didn’t realize how many African-Americans were here, though.”

By chance, the two women finally visited last week, while President Obama was here for his second August vacation since taking office. They did not see him, but they saw much of the island on a daylong tour of its African-American Heritage Trail: 22 sites that someday will probably add a stop for the secluded farm the first black president rented.

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