IU South Bend to purchase Civil Rights Heritage Center

IU South Bend to purchase Civil Rights Heritage Center

  • South Bend Tribune Report
  • Jan 10, 2020

SOUTH BEND — Indiana University South Bend officials announced Friday that the school will purchase the former Engman Public Natatorium, home to the Civil Rights Heritage Center, in South Bend.

IU South Bend has been leasing the Natatorium since 2010.

“This purchase allows us to expand programs that advance our educational mission in this region,” IU South Bend Chancellor Susan Elrod said in a news release, “while solidifying our commitment to deep engagement with the entire South Bend community regarding civil rights and social justice issues.”

The Engman Natatorium opened July 3, 1922, and is one of the last remaining symbols of the civil rights struggle in South Bend.

When it opened, it was the largest public swimming pool in the state, however, African-Americans were prohibited from swimming there, according to a news release. After a legal battle in 1937, African-Americans were allowed in on a segregated basis once a week.

In 1950, the Natatorium was finally fully desegregated. The building later closed in 1978.

A partnership between the City of South Bend, the South Bend Heritage Foundation, IU South Bend and local benefactors led to the facility being renovated and reopened in May of 2010 as the home of the Civil Rights Heritage Center.

“The revitalization of The Natatorium-Civil Rights Heritage Center demonstrates how a community and university working collaboratively can turn a past injustice into a new justice for everyone,” Gladys Muhammad, associate director South Bend Heritage Foundation, said in a news release. “We turned a wrong into a right. We are so proud of this commitment.”

The building will remain home to the Civil Rights Heritage Center with the new purchase and Darryl Heller will return as director this month. Heller previously served from 2015 to 2018.

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