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New From ISHOF Publishing:
The Swimming Tradition In Pre-Colonial African Culture
New Booklet Sets the Record Straight

Ft. Lauderdale – The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) is proud to announce the publication of “The Swimming Tradition In Pre-Colonial African Culture,” a pamphlet by Dr. Kevin Dawson, Professor of History at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.


“This richly illustrated, 8.5 x 5.5 inch, 16 page pamphlet explores a subject long ignored by swimming historians – African swimming history and the contributions by Africans to sport of Swimming,” says Bruce Wigo, ISHOF’s President. “Given the lack of diversity in swimming, I think this is a story every swimmer and non-swimmer who thinks of swimming as a white sport needs to know. I’m sure that they will be as shocked and amazed by it as I was while helping to research it.”

By all the accounts of early explorers, traders and slavers to sub-Saharan Africa from the mid 1400s onward, the Africans (and later Native Americans) were regarded by Europeans as being the best swimmers in the world. Then, in the late 1800’s, the dynamics of race and swimming changed and this early history was excised from the history books, as swimming became an activity and sport solely for white people. In the seminal work written on the history of swimming - Swimming, by Englishman Ralph Thomas, published in 1904 - there are not more than dozen sentences in his 500 page book devoted to swimming in Africa or by people of African heritage in the Americas, and this interpretation of history has been perpetuated to this day.

“My hope in presenting this information,” says Dr. Dawson, “is that is will dispel commonly accepted stereotypes and myths held by almost everyone about race and swimming and that it will educate, inform, motivate and inspire all persons of African ancestry to embrace the great aquatic traditions of their past for water safety, fitness, better health, an improved quality of life and maybe even to win Olympic medals.”

The Swimming Tradition In Pre-Colonial African Culture is available for purchase for $4.95 plus $1.50 shipping, available through ISHOF’s e-store. For bulk orders, call Marcia at 954-462-6536, ext. 200.

About Dr. Kevin Dawson
Kevin Dawson is an assistant professor of history at UNLV. He received his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 2005. He was a 2004-2005 Ford Dissertation Fellow. Dr. Dawson’s research analyzes how members of the African diaspora recreated aspects of their African heritage in the Americas and Europe. Field and archival research have been conducted in West Africa, Barbados, and throughout the United States. He published “Enslaved Swimmers and Divers in the Atlantic World” in The Journal of American History (March 2006). He is currently working on a book titled Enslaved Watermen in the Atlantic World, 1444-1888, which considers how slaves transmitted African maritime skills to the Americas and how they shaped the social, cultural and economic development of the Americas.

The International Hall of Fame, established in 1965, is a not-for-profit, 501 (c) 3 educational organization located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Its mission is to promote the benefits and importance of swimming as a key to fitness, good health, quality of life, and the water safety of all adults and children. For additional information, log onto the International Swimming Hall of Fame’s website at www.ishof.org or call 954 462-6536.


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