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Friday, February 5, 2016

The Kansas City History Too Few Know

The Kansas City, Missouri Public Library group does some wonderful things with presentations that need to be more well-known and probably, possibly, hopefully attended. There's one coming up that I believe more Kansas Citians should know about, attend and learn from. It's this one.

Desegregating the Swope Park 

Swimming Pool

Perfectly timed for Black History Month, of course, this gives us insight into the not-that-long-ago past of the city when more of the us were centered around Swope Park and that the main, biggest swimming pool was segregated.

That's whites only. White people only.  No blacks. Something unthinkable today, still unconscionable then but the law and practice of the land.

Not only is it terrific, even important history we all should know and never forget but none other than Thurgood Marshall, Jr. is going to be on the panel, discussing the topic. 

Some information on the event.

Nearly three years before the Supreme Court’s ruling against school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka – the commonly acknowledged start of America’s civil rights movement – the burgeoning struggle for equality was stirred by a 1951 case in Kansas City. The local branch of the NAACP filed suit, successfully, to force the city to end racial segregation at the Swope Park swimming pool.

The plaintiffs’ lead attorney was a future Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall. His son, Thurgood Marshall Jr., joins longtime Kansas City activist and former mayor pro tem 
Alvin Brooks
in a discussion of the case, examining the arguments on both sides, the social context of the times, and the elder Marshall’s role in the outcome. KCUR-FM’s Steve Kraske moderates the conversation.

Co-presented by KCUR and the Federal Court Historical Society of Western Missouri.

Here's a little history on the pool, too, prior to the event.

The WPA gave $400,000 to build the Swope Park swimming pool, a state-of-the-art facility with a refreshment stand, dressing rooms, and space for 3,000 people. The pool opened to white Kansas Citians in 1941, and after a heated court battle it opened to the black community in 1954.

That WPA is, of course, for those too young to know, the Works Progress Administration. You know, our own Federal government, of all of us, supposedly.

It was right around this time, in 1954, when the Swope Park pool opened for blacks AND whites of the city--heaven forbid!--that the "white flight" began in earnest, sending all the honkies and crackers out to the hinterlands of Southern Kansas City and over the state line to Johnson County. God forbid we live together.

So once again, NPR, National Public Radio is also stepping up, with the Library, to bring and present this material to and for us all.

Kudos and many thanks to KCUR, the Kansas City Public Library and all for bringing this to us. 

Here's hoping for a great turnout. 

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