Last December, I visited my family in Lynchburg, Virginia for Christmas. Thanks to the warm weather we got to spend time outdoors exploring the city. At a nearby park in the historical district, I was introduced to this:
It kind of looks like a bare garden now, but what it used to be is a swimming pool. My stepfather told me that sometime during desegregation, the city filled in the pool with concrete to prevent blacks (and presumably any other non-whites) from using it.
To say that such a situation seems unreal is an understatement. I contacted the Legacy Museum of African American History in Lynchburg for more information, and this is what the museum's administrator Cheryl R. Stallings had to say:
This information is correct.
Early in the afternoon on Independence Day, July 4, 1961, a black gentleman named Olivet C. Thaxton, with six young boys, came to the segregated Miller Park swimming pool and attempted to purchase tickets for entrance into the dressing room. It is said that the City Manager, Recreation Department Supervisor, and the Chief of Police were present, because they had been forwarned. Also, additional law enforcement was present. Mr. Thaxton was told at this time that all city pools, the white Miller Park and Riverside Park pools and the black Jefferson Park pool would be closed if the group entered. Mr. Thaxton insisted that he be let in. The pools were closed, and soon after filled in. I beleive that Miller Park pool did not open until 1986.
There are two great books that you can purchased (1) Lynchburg: A City Set On Seven Hills by Clifton & Dorothy Potter; (2) Lynchburg, Virginia: The First Two Hundred Years 1786-1986 by James M. Elson.
What surprises me, besides the fact that the pools were filled in at all, is that in this park with several sites of interest there isn't a single plaque to inform visitors of the important history that they might just be walking on.
Legacy Museum of African American History
Lynchburg, Virginia by Clifton Potter, Dorothy Potter (Barnes & Noble)
Lynchburg, Virginia: The First Two Hundred Years, 1786-1986 by James M. Elson (Barnes & Noble)
Official City of Lynchburg, Virginia site