African American Studies | Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Ethnic Studies | Health and Physical Education | Legal Studies | Leisure Studies | Other Legal Studies | Race and Ethnicity | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sports Studies


Historically, swimming pools have been a focal point of racial tension. Discrimination and segregation are inextricably tied to the history of public swimming usage in the United States. Pools are public spaces that are physically and visually intimate. History has revealed that both de jure (enacted through the law by the government) and de facto (occurs through social interaction) discrimination have contributed to segregatory practices in the United States. The purpose of this article is twofold: 1) to examine the social pattern of discrimination that has stymied the growth of swimming in communities of color in the United States; and 2) to examine key legal cases that helped to mitigate discriminatory practices in the use of public swimming pools in the United States. Landmark cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Topeka, and Dawson v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore each helped to cast a bright light on the practice of segregation and public swimming pools. In spite of the history of discrimination and segregation relative to public swimming pools in the United States, citizens, stakeholder groups and professional associations must be advocates to ensure that public pools are protected and that the patterns of discrimination and “neuvo-segregation” do not persist.