Lynchburg camp commemorating 60th anniversary of area’s first interracial swimming pool

The celebration will kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday at Camp Kum-Ba-Yah.

On Independence Day 60 years ago, most swimming pools were segregated.

LYNCHBURG, Va. – For the first time in 60 years, a Lynchburg group is taking a look back.

“This was the start, and this is when the community started working together,” said Camp Kum-Ba-Yah Board Member Niro Rasanayagam.

It was the moment that marked the beginning of the end for segregation in the Hill City. While many know Lynchburg is full of rich history, Camp Kum-Ba-Yah is celebrating a very important piece.

“After 60 years, the people who were involved in it directly now are getting much older, they’re passing away,” said Rasanayagam. “We wanted to have this opportunity to get their perspectives.”

On July 4, 1961, six African American kids came to swim at Miller Park and rather than integrate the pool, the city decided to shut all of them down for the day.

“A few hours later that same day, our camp director decided these pools here had just opened up,” Rasanayagam says. “He opened up the pools for everyone in the community regardless of their race and background.”

Not only was Camp Kum-Ba-Yah the place of the first interracial swimming experience, but it was also the only place in Lynchburg for people of different backgrounds to gather safely.

It’s why they will unveil two pieces commemorating the historical event on Sunday, 60 years later.

“It seemed like after a year of shutdowns and the pandemic, this Fourth of July was a wonderful time to gather and celebrate our history,” said Rasanayagam.

Camp Kum-Ba-Yah continues the mission it’s always believed in fighting for, inclusivity. The Fourth of July celebration will kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday at Camp Kum-Ba-Yah, located at 4415 Boonsboro Road.

About the Author:

Kortney joined the 10 News team as a Lynchburg Bureau Reporter in May 2021.