Jeff Wiltse is the author of Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America, an engaging look at how swimming pools “reflect many of the tensions and transformations that have given rise to modern America”. Anyone who has read Jeff’s book won’t be surprised to hear that it took until well into the new millennium for a swimmer of African descent to break the color barrier in her sport.
Simone Manuel became the first African American woman to win Olympic Gold in an individual swimming event. She did it in 2016 by breaking an Olympic world record in the 100-meter freestyle, and we interviewed Jeff about that historic achievement. What we learned in that interview forms the backbone of our episode on Simone Manuel, a fascinating account of racial segregation and the suppressed history of this competitive sport.