The Brookside Plunge
The construction of the Brookside Plunge, in Pasadena, California marked the beginning of a national struggle for the right of non-whites to gain access to public swimming pools . When the pool opened on the 4th of July, 1914 a sign was posted that it was: “For use by whites only.” At the time, there was a substantial African-American community in Pasadena, California. It was well organized, with an established branch of the N.A.A.C.P. Both W.E.B. Bubois and Booker T. Washington had lectured there. Best known for its Rose Parade and football stadium, it was the town’s swimming pool that took center stage in the national struggle for civil rights.
When the Plunge opened, leadership of the N.A.A.C.P. reacted quickly, and so did the white leadership. The next week, city officials announced that the Plunge would be opened on Wednesdays, for blacks, Mexicans and Asians.
In 1914, no effective filtration and chlorination systems had been developed. The purification system used in pools was to “fill and drain” them on a weekly basis. Wednesday was the day before the Brookside Plunge was drained, scrubbed with acid and re-filled with clean water. The offer was rejected and when the same offer was given to the non-white community in the 1930’s and accepted, civil rights lawyer, Ralph Bunche had this to say: “I want to tell you that when I think of such outrageous atrocities a this latest swimming pool incident, which has been perpetuated upon Los Angeles Negroes, my blood boils. And when I see my people so foolhardy as to patronize such a place, and thus give it their sanction, my disgust is trebled. Any Los Angeles Negro who would go bathing in that dirty hole with that sign in insolent mockery of his Race, is either a fool or a traitor to his kind.”