Virginia Kendall Park is a section of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park originally developed in the 1930s for the Akron Metropolitan Park system (now Summit Metro Parks) by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Noted for its Ritchie Ledges rock formations, Virginia Kendall has long been a favored hiking and picnicking destination. Black groups and organizations enjoyed picnics, hayrides, and other outdoor activities through the 1930s and 1940s. By the early 1950s, Black usage rose, prompting white flight.
When the Akron Metropolitan Park Board declared that it could not find enough lifeguards to open the swimming areas at Kendall and Brushwood Lake for the 1954 summer season, the decision drew fire from local Black leaders who sensed a racial motive. Kendall and Brushwood had been the only two public swimming areas in the Akron area that accepted Black swimmers. The Kendall swimming area reopened on a limited basis (Sundays and holidays) in 1955 and 1956 before closing for good.
The closure of these swimming areas left few options for African Americans. Many turned to Nimisila Reservoir, but the steep drop-offs along its shoreline led to a number of drownings. The Frontiers Club, a Black organization, called repeatedly for the reopening of Kendall, but in 1960 the park board introduced bluegills into the lake, making clear that fishing had replaced swimming permanently. In the meantime, however, a new beach at Turkeyfoot Lake opened in 1957 on an integrated basis.
Additional information coming soon.
- “Appeal to Governor to End Park Jim Crow.” Call & Post. September 11, 1954.
- “Cleveland NAACP Offers Aid in Akron Swim Pool Battle.” Call & Post. August 14, 1954.
- Jackson, James S., and Ray C. Sutliff. “Negroes Look to Kendall Pool.” Akron Beacon Journal. March 20, 1960.
- Jackson, James S., and Ray C. Sutliff. “Only Fish to Swim at Kendall.” Akron Beacon Journal. June 12, 1960.
- Richardson, Marty. “Holiday Crowds Meet Jim-Crow at Ohio Parks, Swimming Pools.” Call & Post. July 10, 1954.
- Stopher, Robert H., and James S. Jackson. “Behind the Front Page.” Akron Beacon Journal. June 16, 1954.
- Vasarhelyi, Jennie. “Kendall Lake Through the Years.” National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/kendall-lake-through-the-years.htm.