Landmark Case

Smith v. Young Men's Christian Association

Case Number

2883-N

Challenging segregation
Like other cities across the South, Montgomery, Alabama took the extraordinary step of closing swimming pools, parks, and recreational facilities rather than integrate them as court ordered in 1958. Later, the pools were filled with dirt.

The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) began to fill the city's recreational needs, but continued to segregate children, going so far as to ban kids who swam at an integrated pools from city-wide meets.

Then, in 1969, the YMCA refused to admit two African American children to its summer camp. Center co-founder Morris Dees filed a class action suit to stop the YMCA's policy of racial discrimination.

During the lawsuit, he uncovered a secret 1958 agreement between the city and the YMCA in which city officials gave the YMCA control of many city recreational activities.

The court ruled that the city had invested the YMCA with a "municipal character," and ordered the YMCA to stop its discriminatory, segregationist practices.