Swimming pools across the country have been filled with children trying to escape the heat, but for two African-American brothers who grew up during the 1950s and 60s, that was never an option.
When John, 91, and Bradford Tatum, 89, first took to the water, public swimming pools didn’t allow blacks, so they were forced to find other options, like swimming in the waters of the Lincoln Memorial in DC, until the park police asked them to leave.
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Growing up, even though the two brothers loved to swim, they were never formally taught how to swim.
“We never had anybody teach us the right stroke and the right kick,” said John as he recalled his experience swimming as a young boy. “We just swam, we were playing.”
Even after the formal end of segregation, the brothers said they still didn’t feel welcome swimming within integrated pools.
For Bradford, the experience was embarrassing at times.
“All the white people got out,” said Bradford.
These days though, without any hesitation, the Tatum brothers still swim three days a week competing every two years in the National Senior Games, both of them winning several awards.
Always modest, the brothers insist that their wins are not a big deal.
“As long as I’m healthy enough to get out there and swim, that’s my goal,” adds John.
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For the Tatum brothers, not only does swimming provide many health benefits, it provides an escape from the world.
Brothers, who were once not welcome inside integrated pools, are now at home in the water.