Nov 26, 2017

Integrating the Public Pool

When I was a kid in the 1960s, Rock Island was segregated.  Almost all African-Americans lived on the West End.  There was only one in my junior high.  If I wanted to get a glimpse of black beefcake, I had to go to Longview Park Pool, where swimsuit-clad bodies of black and white men glistened in the afternoon son.

But for fifty years, public swimming pools were almost universally off-limits to African-Americans.

It's the hottest day of the year, there's no such thing as air conditioning, and you are forbidden from seeking relief in a swimming pool.

Segregation began in the 1920s, when pools began to admit men and women together.  Concerned about...well, I don't know what, and I doubt that they did officials decided to admit white people only.

After World War II, when federal mandates began, requiring states and cities to demolish the "separate but equal" policies, many cities shut down their pools rather than integrate them.  Others instituted separate white and black hours, and shut down the pool to drain and clean it in between.

In 1949, St. Louis opened the Fairground Swimming Pool to black swimmers, in response to pressure from the federal government.  30 black youth showed up to swim, but a crowd of angry white people began yelling and threatening them through the fence.  The police had to be called to escort them home.

On June 8, 1958, David Isom took a stand at a segregated pool in Florida.  City officials closed the pool.  Notice the shocked looks of the white people.

You couldn't even swim in the ocean.  In 1963, some civil rights activists resisted the "white-only ocean" policy of St. Augustine, Florida, and were assaulted by white beachgoers.

The racism wasn't universal.  Here a black lifeguard happily teaches a white kid how to swim in a Pittsburgh pool in 1951.

But notice the white kids keeping their distance on the second day of pool integration in Omaha in 1963.

As the 2016 election and its aftermath has shown, racism is alive and well in the contemporary U.S.  But at least you can still see black and white beefcake together in a public pool.

1 comment:

  1. FWIW, it seems that in the blue states that flipped to Trump, it might be due to Democrats' listening to pundits who romanticize unemployment. My only wish is that those pundits could spend the rest of their lives in chow lines. The other factor, ironically, was, at least in MI, Muslims who still had issue with one Clinton vote. (Seriously, when Dearborn breaks for Twitler, in the words of Lisa Simpson, you can't help but feel a little rejected.)

    The really bad part? We could have three more seats in the House if not for the Democrats' efforts to get the affluent white flight suburb that is GA-6. And that's the way the news goes.

    As an aside, I've had fun telling Nazis they need Jesus, making sure to put Jesus in triple parentheses, of course. Because trolling Nazis is that easy.


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