“Black people don’t swim!” Have you ever wondered WHY this stereotype exists?

From the United States to the Caribbean, people of African descent were not permitted to swim in the same pools as White people and lacked access to pools in their own communities.

Here in Kansas City, MO, when Swope Park Pool opened in 1941, it was the nicest pool in town, but it was a pool for White swimmers only!

Black people were told to use the swimming pool at Paseo Park, the area of the present day Gregg E. Klice Community Center at 17th and Vine.

On August 2,1951, Kansas City’s local government learned that the NAACP had filed suit to end racial segregation. While the city initially voted to keep Swope Pool segregated, they were unable to meet the ruling from the US Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court, which was to provide equal facilities for Black people. Thus, on June 12, 1954, the pool reopened to service White and Black patrons alike.

While the local government prepared for riots like those seen in other cities, Kansas Citians peacefully entered and swam together without incident. Civil Rights Activist, Alvin Brooks, says, “It was smooth, but it wasn’t integrated. Blacks were not here in large numbers.” Black people still did not feel safe or welcome at Swope Pool.

While we have made progress, even today there are disparities in the facilities provided to Black communities. Often, Black neighborhoods are provided with neighborhood splash parks and fountains instead of full aquatic facilities.

Legacy of LAW strives to provide the education needed to encourage young Black swimmers to change the stereotypes!