A Sunny Summer Day at the Swimming Pool

Artist: Judy Borish

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My square depicts the discrimination present everywhere in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It doesn’t mean there isn’t discrimination today, just not as open. I grew up in the 1950s and early 60s in the Midwest. Every summer Dad took us to the “public” swimming pool. It was years later that I realized what the sign meant. It was owned privately and only open to the public if we were white and gentile.

I recently told a childhood friend about my quilt square and he remember the same pool. He told me the following story. “My cousin Willis was so incensed that his best friend was excluded (a young Jewish boy) that it influenced his life's work. Out of High School he joined organizations that were active in the late 50's advocating the end to segregation in its many forms. He continued through college and seminary to lean to the social justice classes and take part in demonstrations, protests, and other activities to help bring an end to segregation that he (and today most of us) saw as arbitrary and wrong. Most of his professional life he taught history, civics, and literature at Talladega University (a historically black college in Talladega AL). He finished his career teaching American Lit and English in the Birmingham AL Schools. It would be fair to say that he, his wife and his children faced many episodes of ugliness due to his work which carried over to his time in Birmingham Schools. He never wavered and, if his body wasn't limited by a stroke and Parkinson's, he would be on panels or protests lines today.”

I chose to use children because they are the innocents who don’t understand why things happen. As the song in the musical South Pacific says, “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear”.