I’ve recently picked up the book The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South by Andrew W. Kahrl. It’s been a revelation. More than just a history of segregated beaches, the book explains the environmental history of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans in a way I had never even considered before. The author shows that as our Coast began to be developed as a tourist destination in the 1920s and later (much of the beach and highway work being accomplished with federal money), the old ways of African American waterfront ownership faded and new ways of denying access to the water emerged. He also paints a vivid portrayal of the Gulfside Assembly in Waveland and shows what a rare place it was even nationally–these chapters alone are worth the money for the book.
As I’ve been reading about how African Americans in this highly enforced system had to cool off in muddy or polluted waterways, I remembered some postcards of municipal swimming pools that appear to date to the 1930s I’ve added to my collection in the last few months.
Of course, these are all lily-white swimming pools. The only black public swimming pool I’ve run across in my travels around the state is this one at Oak Park School in Laurel, but it looks to be at least 1950s or even later.
What other public swimming pools from the 1930s through the 1960s, white or black, do you know about around the state?