Wednesday’s unexpected arrival of dozens of undocumented immigrants, sent to Martha’s Vineyard from Florida under the order of Gov. Ron DeSantis, brought back vivid memories of a similar situation that unfolded on Cape Cod more than 60 years ago.
In June of 1962, white supremacists in the South arranged for hundreds of Black families from Arkansas to board one-way buses to Northern cities as a means of retaliating for the Freedom Rides a year earlier and to embarrass then-President John F. Kennedy over his support of the civil rights movement.
Dozens of families showed up in Hyannis one day, surprising residents.
“They arrived here on Main Street, and people didn’t know they were coming, so it was a really big surprise,” recalled Dolores DaLuz of Hyannis.
DaLuz, now 88, and her late husband, Joseph, spent days arranged for housing for the families, including many women and children.
“They were totally confused, crying,” she remembered. “It was just like being dropped off into another land that they knew nothing about.”
After being sent unexpectedly to Martha’s Vineyard, dozens of migrants were brought to the mainland.
DaLuz ended up becoming good friends with one of the women; they even one worked together and spoke regularly until her death nearly four decades later.
“A lot of the families left, but one family stayed on, and that was Victoria Bell and her family,” she said. “Her kids are still here, her grandkids. She’s passed, of course, but they’re members of the town.”
DaLuz said she would tell the families that are now housed at Joint Base Cape Cod one thing as they brace for an uncertain future.
“What message could I give them except to just persevere, stay with it?” she said.