Segregation in City Park

Stop 7 of 13 in the City Park tour

Until 1958, all park amenities, including the playground, were restricted to white residents. African American children and families were banned from entering the park. In a 1995 interview, the late author Tom Dent discusses his childhood experience during the late 1930s, when police kicked him and his friend out of City Park.

Tom Dent:
It's difficult to explain the adult world, the political situation or economic situation, to children who are not able to understand such foolishness or complexity, however you want to take it. You'd get general warnings --"Be careful, watch how you act, see how you behave" -- you know. "Be careful about how you behave on the streetcar or the bus," and, particularly, how you behave if police were approaching. Because too many blacks have been arrested, abused, beaten or worse just for no reason.

My closest friend, childhood friend, was Andrew Young. I remember once we were riding our bikes in City Park. Policeman came through and threw us out. We weren't even supposed to ride through the park. And I remember once I was driving by when I was young, and we were driving by City Park. My father was driving, and I asked him why we could not use the park. And he had a hard time trying to explain it. And in an interview in the daily paper--The Item or the Picayune--with him he mentioned that: "My son asked me, you know, why. I have a hard time trying to explain that." So, the little nuances of racial relations, where you had freedom to maneuver and where you didn't, were things you had to pick up from your friends and from your own experiences.


Images

White Children in Hyams Wading Pool.

White Children in Hyams Wading Pool.

Children in Hyams Wading Pool, located in the amusement park. City Park was officially integrated in 1958, but some amenities remained off-limits to African-American children into the 1960s. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. View File Details Page

White children enjoy city's 2nd largest public swimming pool.

White children enjoy city's 2nd largest public swimming pool.

The City Park Natatorium or pool served whites from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm each day from May to September. It was built with WPA labor during the late 1930s. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. View File Details Page

Crowded City Park pool

Crowded City Park pool

While other parts of the park opened to African-Americans following desegregation, officials closed the grand pool in order to prevent blacks and whites from bathing together. Later generations of children visited the site during Halloween season, when Orleans Parish prisoners and deputies fashioned the space into a popular haunted house. The remnants of the pool were cleared away following Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy of New Orleans Public Library View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Kimberly Jochum, Michael Mizell-Nelson , “Segregation in City Park,” New Orleans Historical, accessed April 30, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/203.

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