Swimming Pools For Some

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.

SwimmingPools3 SwimmingPools4 SwimmingPools1

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?

Categories: African American History, Books, Greenwood, Laurel, Meridian, Tupelo

19 replies

  1. The bathhouse in Greenwood is extant, converted to city maintenance storage. The pool itself, built over the site of the Old Jail by WPA workers in 1934-35, was filled in almost overnight during the Civil Rights upheavals, around 1964 or 1965. Coming in or out of the bathhouse locker rooms, you got soaked with a freezing cold shower of “dechlorinating” water that was almost unbearable.


  2. North Gulfport has the Good Deeds Association Library and Swimming Pool complex at the corner of the Madison St. and Texas Ave. I’m not sure when it was established but I believe the recently existing buildings were from the 1950’s. The brick library has been renovated since Katrina but the concrete block changing rooms have been torn down and the swimming pool was filled in.



  3. The swimming pool in Tupelo has been filled in and is a parking lot for the Church St. School which can be seen in the background of the post card image above. It was a beautiful facility. The pool was oval in shape and had a tower to dive off of in the center of the pool. Kids had to swim to the tower and back to pass swimming lessons! The bad part was the pool did not have filtration cleaning system so kids (and adults) had to wade through some kind of disinfectant solution before entering the pool. The pool had to be emptied and refilled at some interval due to the lack of filtration system. I think it was built in the late 1920s or early 1930s. It was there during the Tupelo Tornado of 1936. The current city park on Joyner St. in Northwest Tupelo had a swimming pool and a wading pool before the current pool was built in the early 1960s (or late 1950s). East Tupelo had Elvis Presley Park with a swimming pool and wading pool (both are gone now). Tupelo is currently building a new aquatic center at Veterans Park in East Tupelo.


  4. we have some great photos of black pools in Jackson 1950s-early 1960s prior to all closing.


  5. Pascagoula still has a municipal pool which was originally built for the black citizens. It is located in the Andrew Johnson Center and is enjoyed by all now. The Andrew Johnson pool was built in the early/mid 50’s, close to the same time as the municipal pool was built behind the recreation center (now site of the Pascagoula High School) for the white citizens.


  6. Stonewall, Mississippi was one of the towns that closed (and filled in with dirt) the swimming pool rather than integrate. You can read the story of the rediscovery of the pool, which was unearthed, restored, and subsequently reopened in 2007 at the link:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/18/us/18pool.html?pagewanted=all.

    Mound Bayou, Mississippi’s Dr. T. R. M. Howard is credited with building the first swimming pool for blacks. It was part of the zoo and public park complex that he created. The remains of the pool are still there, and at least as of 2012, plans were in place for some type of restoration project, though not for use as a swimming pool. You can see a photograph of the pool at the link:http://suzassippi.blogspot.com/2012/03/another-look-at-mound-bayou-history.html.


    • And those high-tech computer jobs promised to un-employed mill workers in Stonewall by Chip Pickering never came to be, either. The textile machines in that plant were produced in Germany and there was a twin facility in Tyler, Texas. Both mills re-located to China. I think that I heard that the denim mill could process 500 bales of cotton per day.


  7. Jeff Wiltse’s book, Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America, is another very good recent book that includes a discussion of the racial politics of swimming pools, but also class politics, across the nation.


  8. Is this a filled in swimming pool at the Aberdeen water works?



  1. Sally Greene | "Those Section 8 people" - Sally Greene

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