By 1961 in Jackson, not only could black and white citizens not legally drink from the same water fountains, but they could not swim together in the capital city's taxpayer-funded swimming pools. That year, a group of Black Jacksonians began demanding that pools here be integrated.
As a result, Mayor Allen C. Thompson and city officials, all white then, closed four public pools in 1963 rather than integrating them, much as white officials across the South had threatened to close rather than integrate public schools after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision. The City sold the fifth to the YMCA, which continued to operate it as a whites-only pool. The City of Jackson argued, after closing the pools, that integrated ones could not operate safely nor economically.
Unlike Brown, however, the U.S. Supreme Court did not intervene and force public pools to re-open after officials closed them. Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy explained the Palmer v. Thompson case, which upheld local pool closings, at the "History Is Lunch" speaker series at the Two Mississippi Museums on Wednesday, March 15. The U.S. Supreme Court, he explained, ruled that closing the pools to everyone did not deny equal protection of the laws under the 14th Amendment. The court also ruled that the case did not violate the 13th Amendment by creating a "badge or incident" of slavery, as the plaintiffs had originally argued.
"Closing the pools was just segregation by other means," Kennedy said.
The precedent allowing the City of Jackson to close the pools rather than integrating them still stands.
'We Are Not Going to Have Any Intermingling'
The residents challenging the racial segregation of recreational facilities had won a declaratory judgment from federal Judge Sidney Carr Mize, who determined that it is unconstitutional to segregate publicly owned recreational facilities. Mize was a U.S. District