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Black children are almost 6 times more likely to drown than white children. Segregated pools are to blame

A new exhibition in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Water Works shines a light on the segregated history of swimming pools in America. Titled Pool: A Social History of Segregation, it portrays the lasting impact that racial discrimination in pools has had on Black communities. According to a 2017 study commissioned by the USA Swimming Foundation and done by researchers at the University of Memphis, 64% of Black children in the United States can’t swim (compared to 40% for white children), and they are almost six times more likely to drown in a swimming pool than white children. Pool seeks to bring awareness to that disparity.

Philadelphia opened the first outdoor municipal pool in the United States in 1883, and it has the largest number of public pools per person (more than 70) of any major American city. The new exhibition is located in the former Kelly Pool—built in 1961 by John B. Kelly Sr., father of famed actress Grace Kelly, and a three-time Olympic gold medalist. The exhibition was set to open at the beginning of September, but the day before, the building was flooded during Hurricane Ida. Luckily, a digital iteration has been created to raise awareness, while the interior is being restored (it is set to reopen in late December).

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