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When it opened in July of 1959, the Nile Swim Club welcomed over one thousand people to its pool. The only problem that day, remembers Bill Mellix, then 13, “None of us knew how to swim.”

In the 1930s, an African American middle class began moving into Yeadon, leading to one of the nation’s first Black suburban enclaves. By the end of the 1950s, Ebony magazine dubbed Yeadon Philadelphia’s “Black Mainline.” The town remained majority white however, and strict racial segregation was enforced, including the local pool. Typical for the time, white residents maintained it as a private swim club to avoid public desegregation laws. The response of Yeadon’s African Americans proved unique. They built their own pool and opened it to all, regardless of race. It attracted members from the Philadelphia area, including New Jersey and offered a variety of programming. Celebrities such as Harry Belafonte and members of the Supremes visited. Decades later, hip hop icon D.J. Cash Money and actor Will Smith started out at the Nile as MCs. Join author Robert Kodosky as he reveals the incredible history and legacy of the Nile Swim Club and the vibrant landmark it remains today.

About the Speaker: Robert J. Kodosky, Ph.D. (Temple University) chairs the dept. of history at West Chester University where he teaches courses in American military and diplomatic history and serves as the faculty adviser for the Student Veteran Group. He is also the author of Psychological Operations American Style: The Joint United States Public Affairs Office, Vietnam and Beyond (Lexington, 2007), Tuskegee in Philadelphia: Rising to the Challenge (The History Press, 2020) and co-author of Construction Ahead: Making American History Since 1865 (Great River Learning, 2024.)

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February 20
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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Chester County History Center
225 North High Street
West Chester, PA 19380 United States
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