On this dayJun 08, 1958

St. Petersburg, Florida, Orders Public Pool Closed After Black Man Swims in It


On June 8, 1958, a city manager in St. Petersburg, Florida, ordered the closure of a public indoor swimming pool after a Black 19-year-old named David Isom used the facility.

In April 1957, St. Petersburg opened its segregated public swimming facilities to Black residents after the city ruled in favor of six Black community members who had filed a suit against the city government over its discriminatory practices.

Despite the ruling, St. Petersburg’s facilities remained segregated by practice for well over a year. Denied access to the public Spa Pool and Spa Beach downtown, Black residents were forced to travel to Tampa Bay where a much smaller, less well-maintained facility nicknamed the “South Mole” was open to them.

On June 8, Mr. Isom arrived at the all-white Spa Pool and purchased an entry ticket. There were roughly 50 white bathers in the pool when he arrived. He swam for less than a half hour and then continued with his day. “I just feel that it’s not a privilege to use the pool, but a right,” Mr. Isom stated.

After Mr. Isom’s departure, the pool manager promptly announced that the Spa Pool and the adjoining Spa Beach would both be closed immediately because of Mr. Isom’s swim, following orders from the city manager, Ross Windom. Both facilities remained closed until the following week, when the city council reopened them.

Headline from newspaper about the incident.

Throughout the 1950s, despite court rulings on the unconstitutionality of segregated facilities, white people across the South remained committed to preventing racial integration. As was the case in St. Petersburg, white officials in numerous cities voluntarily shut down public parks, swimming pools, and other recreational facilities—choosing to deny all citizens these benefits rather than to extend them to Black people.

To learn more about the massive campaign millions of white Americans waged to oppose the fight for racial equality, read EJI’s report, Segregation in America.

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