Some African Americans worked hard and carefully saved money to buy vacation homes so their children and grandchildren could enjoy comfortable vacations. Black entrepreneurs established businesses in response to growing demand. Their stories show the creativity and determination required to overcome the barriers that resulted from racism.
Hazel and Clayton Sinclair met in Kittery when they came as domestic help with white employers who were vacationing there. Hazel, a cook and maid, and Clayton, a chauffeur, decided to marry and stay in Maine. When they bought Rock Rest, it was a run-down house without electricity or running water. Clayton worked for two years to fix up the building. After they opened for business, Hazel worked seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day, cooking, cleaning, and tending to the guests’ needs. Clayton worked full time at the Portsmouth shipyard, and when he got home to Rock Rest, he tended the garden and was the all purpose “fix-it man.” Running Rock Rest was not easy, but it provided the Sinclairs with an independence they would not have had as domestic help.
Places like Oak Bluffs, Rock Rest, and the Cummings’ Guest House became truly special to the people who visited them. Free from the pressures of their life back home, visitors could relax and enjoy the company of friends and family.
- While Oak Bluffs was merely a vacation destination for some, Harriette Evans feels a special connection to the island. Here, she discusses what Martha’s Vineyard means to her and her family.
- Lee Van Allen is the great-great granddaughter of Charles Shearer, who opened the Shearer Cottage in 1903. She describes what makes Martha’s Vineyard such an attractive place for vacationers of all races.
- Clayton Sinclair Jr. explains how meeting the guests at Rock Rest led him to make a major decision about his life.
- Vera Shorter retells the author Dorothy West’s account of how black vacationers in Oak Bluffs were unwelcome at the pay beach in town, and therefore created their own space at the Inkwell, the free beach.