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ARCC Initial Public Event: “The Secrets of Shady Rest and Other Hometown Stories in Black and White, Hidden in Plain Sight,” May 18, 2019

  • Secrets of Shady Rest Event Flyer

On May 18, 2019, ARCC offered its first public event: “The Secrets of Shady Rest,” an interactive hyper-local exploration of the racial history of our corner of Union County.  The name of the event reflected its location: “Shady Rest at Scotch Hills,” the site of the nation’s first African-American golf and country club. (insert link to Shady Rest website). During the 1920s and ‘30s, Shady Rest was a destination for African-American residents who were not welcomed at the local White country clubs. Adding to Shady Rest’s allure, top Black musicians, singers and entertainers—including Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington—performed there (not far from the New York City area).  Shady Rest’s history is truly remarkable.  What is equally noteworthy is how few local residents know this history.  This is particularly true for White community members.

The Secrets of Shady Rest program had two components: a hyper-local quiz about the accomplishments of White and Black citizens in Scotch Plains and Westfield during the past two-plus decades, and a series of presentations on topics linked to structural racism. These include the histories of housing discrimination and residential segregation; voting and voting rights; Black social clubs and Black churches in the area; and race and education.  We compiled and presented information about this history through two routes: consulting with experts on Black history and structural racism— Dr. Linda Caldwell Epps and Ms. Ethel Washington— and charging a group of “citizen historians” to research and present on one of the several topics noted above.  (For a copy of the Shady Rest quiz, send us a request via email.)

We are delighted that more than 65 community members, including Union County Board of Freeholders Chair, Bette Jane Kowalski, attended the event.

   There was general agreement that much of the local African-American history and the achievements we explored are not taught, nor celebrated, in our schools.. By contrast, our towns promote their White history—in particular, Colonial history, and stories of that time and others are widely known.