Black Girls Swim

Race, Gender, and Embodied Aquatic Histories

in Girlhood Studies
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  • 1 Manhattanville College, USA
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Abstract

During the early part of the twentieth century, Black girls in the United States attended Young Women's Christian Associations (YWCAs) where they received instruction in sports and physical activity. Using archival research, in this article I examine the role of swimming in Black girls’ sports and physical activity practices in Northern YWCAs. With a focus on the construction of Black girlhood, health, and embodiment, I trace how girls navigated spatial segregation, beauty ideals, and athleticism. I highlight the experiences of Black girl swimmers—subjects who have often been rendered invisible in the historical and contemporary sporting landscape.

Contributor Notes

Samantha White is Assistant Professor of Sport Studies at Manhattanville College. As an interdisciplinary scholar, she examines historical, literary, and cultural studies of childhood, youth, race, gender, and sports. Her current research explores histories of Black girlhood, health, and sports in the early twentieth century. Her work can be found in the Journal of Child and Youth Services (2015), the Journal of Sport Literature (2015, 2019), and the Journal of Sport History (2020).

Girlhood Studies

An Interdisciplinary Journal

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