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African-American Swimmers

Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture

To celebrate Black History Month, Black Kids Swim will visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  BKS received a special invitation to visit the NMAAHC with Black Kids Swim members.  During our visit, we will have the opportunity to speak with sports curator Dr. Damion Thomas to learn more about the history of African Americans’ involvement in the sport of competitive swimming.

Kevin Dawson’s article “Enslaved Swimmers and Divers in the Atlantic World” gives an excellent historical review of African American’s relationship to swimming:

Over more than three centuries, western travelers to West Africa reported that Africans
were sound swimmers; several noted that they generally swam better than Europeans
and described their use of the freestyle. In the late sixteenth century, the Flemish adventurer Pieter de Marees commented on Gold Coast (Ghanaian) Africans’ freestyle technique, observing “they can swim very fast, generally easily outdoing people of our nation in swimming and diving.” In 1606 the Dutch merchant Pieter Van den Broecke noted that many of the Africans at Gorée Island, Senegal, were “extraordinarily strong swimmers.” In the late seventeenth century, comparing the freestyle used by the Fante of Elmina, in present-day Ghana, and the breaststroke employed by Europeans, the commercial agent Jean Barbot asserted “the Blacks of Mina out-do all others at the coast in dexterity of swimming, throwing one [arm] after another forward, as if they were paddling, and not extending their arms equally, and striking with them both together, as Europeans do.”

We look forward to learning more about our history during this special visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Most of all, we are excited to share this opportunity with you! If you and your swimmer would like to visit the NMAAHC with Black Kids Swim on February 4, 2018 please email us at info@BlackKidsSwim.com.  In your email, please include your home state, swim team name, and the number of children and adults you are bringing.

This is a wonderful opportunity to visit the museum, connect with other swim families, and learn more about our history in the sport.  We hope you can join us!

Tickets will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis.  Meeting times and locations will be shared with those who receive tickets.

 

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