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Why Can’t We All Just Go to the Pool? – The New York Times

Posted by | July 5, 2017 | Swimming Pools

People cooled off in the floating pool at Barretto Point Park in the Bronx, 2012. Credit Brad Vest/The New York Times

When I was a child in Springfield, Mass., I lived about a six-minute walk from a beautiful, well-maintained, outdoor public swimming pool just inside the eastern entrance to Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country. To get to the pool, I had only to walk through my friend Adam’s backyard, cross Trafton Road, pass through the park’s gate, head toward the hockey rink and listen for the sound of happy children splashing in cold, blue, chlorine-y water.Yet I was never among those children. My friends and I used the park, all the time, for tennis and baseball and basketball and pickup football. But never for swimming. For that, we biked the quick mile to the Jewish Community Center (my non-Jewish friends had J.C.C. memberships, too). The public pool was used by our black and Puerto Rican peers — boys we played baseball or basketball with, but never swam with. We didn’t know it, but we were part of a long history of socially engineered swimming, a story of American public works that began with progressive hopes but ended in de facto segregation. It’s an unfortunate history, one we should fight to undo, so that we can reclaim public, integrated swimming as an American summertime ritual.America’s earliest public baths and pools, built around the turn of the 20th century, were supposed to provide hygiene as well as recreation for the urban poor and working classes. These pools were not racially segregated. They did, however, separate men from women. For example, New York City’s first municipal pool, opened in 1906 at West 60th Street, drew from the Irish and black neighborhoods that it bordered, but women swam three days a week, men the other four.   READ MORE…..

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