Swimming is a sport that requires discipline, strength, and endurance. Despite its many benefits, it has historically been a sport that has been dominated by white athletes. However, there have been many notable black professional and collegiate swimmers who made their mark on the sport and paved the way for future generations of athletes.
Cullen Jones is a trailblazer in the world of swimming. Not only is he one of the most successful black swimmers in history, but he has also used his platform to raise awareness about the importance of swimming safety. In 2006, Jones had a near-death experience that motivated him to become an advocate for swimming safety. He partnered with organizations such as USA Swimming Foundation and Make a Splash to promote water safety education and has also helped to provide swimming lessons and facilities to underprivileged communities. Additionally, Jones has been recognized for his activism and philanthropic work, receiving accolades such as the USA Swimming Foundation's Humanitarian Award and being named to the Ebony Power 100 list.
Simone Manuel is a groundbreaking black swimmer, celebrated for her many accomplishments in the sport. In 2016, she made history by becoming the first black woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal in swimming. Over the years, she has continued to break records and win medals at the highest levels of competition. Beyond her impressive swimming accolades, Manuel is a dedicated advocate for diversity and inclusion in the sport. She has spoken out against racism in swimming and used her platform to encourage young people of color to pursue their dreams in the sport.
Collegiate - Howard University
Howard University's swim team recently made history by winning the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) championship, becoming the first historically black university to win a Division I conference championship in swimming. The victory was a long time coming for the team, which has been steadily improving under the leadership of head coach Nicholas Askew. The championship win was a testament to the team's hard work, dedication, and talent. The victory also brought attention to the issue of diversity in collegiate swimming, highlighting the need for more programs and resources to support swimmers from underrepresented communities.
Swimming on Film - Pride
The film "Pride" (2007) tells the story of an African American swim coach and team in the inner city of 1970s Philadelphia. While the film takes place decades ago, it still resonates with black swimmers today who face many of the same obstacles. "Pride" sheds light on the struggles of young black athletes who lack access to quality facilities and resources, and who are often overlooked by mainstream swimming organizations. It also highlights the power of mentorship and community in overcoming these challenges. One unknown fact about the film is that the real-life Jim Ellis, who inspired the character played by Terrence Howard, went on to coach at Temple University. He was also a successful swim coach at the Philadelphia Department of Recreation, where he trained thousands of young swimmers over the course of his career.
There are now many initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion in swimming and other sports. These efforts are helping to increase access to swimming facilities and coaching, as well as encouraging more young people from diverse backgrounds to take up the sport. Despite this, black swimmers remain underrepresented. According to a 2018 study by USA Swimming, black swimmers make up only 1.3% of USA Swimming's membership.
While the world of swimming has been historically lacking in diversity, we hope the achievements and stories of black swimmers continue to gain the recognition. Through the efforts of advocates like Cullen Jones, Simone Manuel, and Howard University's swim team--and even films like Pride--more attention is being brought to the need for greater inclusion and support for black swimmers.
Our products feature designs of black people swimming on puzzles, pouches, and even totes. We aim to contribute to the movement to promote representation and inspire the next generation of swimmers with these items. We can all do our part to support and uplift their voices in the world of athletics.