A Civil War memorial in Oak Bluffs is drawing concerted opposition from the Martha’s Vineyard chapter of the NAACP. At the organization’s meeting on March 16, members voted unanimously to ask that the town remove two of the four plaques on the statue. Both the plaques refer to confederate soldiers. One of the plaques, attached years after the statue was erected, is “in honor” of confederate soldiers.

The statue has a long and confusing history on the Island. Often mistaken for a confederate soldier, the statue depicts a union soldier. It was dedicated in 1891, after a fundraising campaign organized by Charles Strahan. Mr. Strahan, of Maryland, fought in the confederate army and moved to Martha’s Vineyard after the Civil War. His intent in erecting the monument was to honor the union soldiers who fought to abolish slavery, and close what is described on the plaque as the “chasm” of lingering bitterness between surviving soldiers from opposite sides.

At their March 16 meeting, the local NAACP chapter heard from Boston historian and filmmaker Clennon King, a frequent visitor to the Island who has spoken out in the past in opposition to the plaques. In a phone conversation this week, Mr. King noted the sponsor of the statue, Mr. Strahan, was wounded fighting for the cause of slavery.

Plaque honoring confederate soldiers was added to the statue many years later. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“This man took a bullet to preserve slavery, and the enslavement of my people and a lot of people who turn up on the Island every August and drop a lot of dough,” Mr. King said. “It’s egregious. I just don’t think Martha’s Vineyard, as it sells itself so progressively, can then have a plaque genuflecting to confederate soldiers. In large part I hold, frankly, the black community there responsible for not being much more vigilant about taking care of this.”

Mr. King said he does not advocate removal of the entire statue.

“I don’t have a problem with the statue itself, but I think we need to be intellectually honest about the fact that it’s not as though Massachusetts had no blood on its hands where it concerned slavery. Don’t piecemeal history, tell the whole story.”

Erik Blake, Oak Bluffs police chief and president of the NAACP chapter, said he will make the request to remove the plaques at the next meeting of the town’s board of selectmen on March 26.

“The government of Oak Bluffs should not be allowing public displays honoring the confederacy,” Mr. Blake said. “Any time that you’re honoring someone that wanted to keep slavery going and fought for that, is not the right thing. It’s insulting to a lot of African-American visitors and it should just be removed.”

The plaques, once offered as an olive branch of sorts, are no longer relevant, according to Mr. Blake.

“It’s very nice to say the chasm is closed which implies that everything is good, there’s no more North, there’s no more South, racism is over and everything is okay,” Mr. Blake said. “As we can see every single day in the news, it’s not okay. We still have a lot of work to do. Some people say it’s not that simplistic. To me it kind of is simplistic. You don’t honor a group that wanted to keep people enslaved.”

Mr. Blake said the organization wants the plaques preserved at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, as a part of Island history.