On Thursday, September 18 from 6.30-8.30pm, there will be a special screening of the documentary “Slavery by Another Name” at the Natatorium.
Few people in this area are aware of the rich legacy of Civil Rights — or the sad tragedy of segregation — in northern Indiana or specifically in South Bend. In 1922, the Natatorium opened in South Bend for whites only. As the Great Migration brought numerous African-Americans north looking for work and freedom, this shocked many of them as they expected northern states to be completely desegregated. By 1931, several prominent blacks in South Bend started to protest the segregation at the Natatorium, but no significant gains in rights occurred until the city of South Bend passed a new tax in 1936 to pay for repairs at the Natatorium. The tax frustrated blacks in the community as they paid for the repairs, but could not swim, and by 1937, thanks to several protests, African-Americans were allowed to swim once a week. In late 1949, citywide protests consisting of both blacks and whites erupted once again over segregation of the Natatorium and on February 3, 1950, the Natatorium was fully desegregated.
In May of 2000, sixteen IU South Bend students and faculty participated in the Freedom Summer 2000, studying the Civil Rights Movement in the South. When arriving back at South Bend the students founded the Civil Rights Heritage Center to “record, preserve, and celebrate the struggles and extraordinary achievements of citizens committed to social justice.” In 2010 the Engman Natatorium became the official IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center. The Natatorium is a significant and culturally relevant landmark both in the history of South Bend and the Civil Rights Movement, serving as a reminder that the both segregation and the Civil Rights Movement were local, as well as national, in the fairly recent past.
The preservation of historical landmarks such as the South Bend Natatorium is essential for humanity and for societal growth. So please visit the Natatorium on Thursday September 18, from 6.30-8.30pm for a special screening of the documentary “Slavery by Another Name.” The event will also have a special guest, Dr. Mitch Kachun from Western Michigan, who researches “how African Americans during the 19th and 20th centuries have used historical knowledge and public commemorations in their efforts to work for equal rights, construct a sense of collective identity, and claim control over their status and destiny in American society.” The Natatorium and other museums that are similar in nature are essential not only to remind us where we once were as a nation, but guide us to where we are going we are going in the future. Please come for this event and learn about local history and the history of our nation.