Note: In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Civil Rights Heritage Center is currently closed to the public.
Once a dilapidated building, the former Engman Public Natatorium now tells important stories.
The natatorium experienced a rebirth in 2010 when it was dedicated as the Indiana University South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center. It’s since become an important public gathering space and an attraction that tells a rich, important story about The Bend’s history.
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The center is committed to educating visitors on contemporary issues of social justice and civil rights. It documents, preserves and shares our area’s civil rights history, including LGBTQ and Latinx experiences. Notable among them is is the movement to desegregate the natatorium.
Displays at the natatorium walk visitors through each step in its history, from opening in 1922 as a segregated facility to its eventual integration. Around back, a “peace garden” grows in place of the former pool as a symbol to help heal wounds in the community’s past.
“This is the last building standing that tells the story of segregation in South Bend,” a sign reads near the garden, “and the change that occurred.”
Visitors can thumb through its vast library. There are often special events too – poetry readings, art exhibitions, film screenings, lectures and presentations.