Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Episode 616 (2-14-22): Uses of Water By and Against African Americans in U.S. Civil Rights History (Episode Three of the Series “Exploring Water in U.S. Civil Rights History”)

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (5:35).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 2-11-22.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of February 14, 2022.  This week’s episode –the third in a series of episodes on water in U.S. civil rights history—explores water access and use in African-American civil rights history.  The episode particularly focuses on a May 2018 essay, “The Role of Water in African American History,” written by Tyler Parry, of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, for the blog Black Perspectives, published by the African American Intellectual History Society.  We set the stage with three water sounds related to different aspects of African American and civil rights history.  Have a listen for about 30 seconds and see what connections you think these sounds have to that history.  

SOUNDS – ~32 sec.

You heard Chesapeake Bay waves, children swimming at a public pool, and water coming out of a fire hose.  These represent three broad themes in African Americans’ relationships with water: 1) uses of natural water bodies for livelihoods, recreation, transportation, repression, and resistance; 2) access, or lack thereof, to officially segregated water facilities, as occurred with swimming pools, water fountains, river ferries, and other facilities prior to the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964; and 3) water used as a weapon against citizens demonstrating for civil rights, as in the use of fire hoses on demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama; Danville, Virginia; and other places.  In his essay on water in African American history, Tyler Parry notes these and several other ways that, quote, “water was often present at key moment in the Black experience.  Here are some other examples from Dr. Parry’s essay: the location of African societies near water; the Atlantic transport of enslaved Africans to American colonies and then the United States; use of American waterways—including the James and other Virginia rivers—in the movement of enslaved people; rivers and other waters providing routes of escape from slavery; segregation of African Americans into areas susceptible to flooding; and the importance of water in culture and spiritual practices.

Viewing these examples collectively, Dr. Parry’s essay states, quote, “One finds that water holds a dual role in the history of Black culture and intellectual thought.  In one sense, water is an arena for resistance that liberates, nourishes, and sanctifies a people, but it can also be weaponized by hegemonic forces seeking to degrade, poison, or eliminate rebellious populations,” unquote.

Thanks to Tyler Parry for his scholarship on this topic and for assisting Virginia Water Radio with this episode.

We close with some music for the role of water in African American history.  Here’s a 50-second arrangement of “Wade in the Water,” an African American spiritual dating back to the time of slavery in the United States and connected to the history of the Underground Railroad and the modern Civil Rights Movement.  This arrangement was composed by and is performed here by Torrin Hallett, a graduate student at the Yale School of Music.

MUSIC - ~ 50 sec – instrumental.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this episode.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


Virginia Water Radio thanks Dr. Tyler Parry, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, for his help with this episode.

The sounds heard in this episode were as follows:
Chesapeake Bay waves on Kent Island, Md., recorded by Virginia Water Radio on June 22, 2010;
swimmers at Blacksburg Aquatic Center in Blacksburg, Va., recorded by Virginia Water Radio in July 2019;
fire hose sound recorded by user bigroomsound, made available for use by purchase on Pond5, online at https://www.pond5.com/sound-effects/item/5499472-watersprayfireman-hosevarious.

The arrangement of “Wade in the Water” (a traditional hymn) heard in this episode is copyright 2021 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission.  Torrin is a 2018 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio; a 2020 graduate in Horn Performance from Manhattan School of Music in New York; and a 2021 graduate of the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver.  He is currently a graduate student at the Yale School of Music.  More information about Torrin is available online at https://www.facebook.com/torrin.hallett.  Thanks very much to Torrin for composing this arrangement especially for Virginia Water Radio.  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio in Episode 566, 3-1-21, the introduction to Virginia Water Radio’s series on water in U.S. civil rights history.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at http://newstandardbluegrass.com. 


Sculpture in Birmingham, Alabama’s, Kelly Ingram Park, recalling fire hoses being used on civil rights protestors in the 1960s.  Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, March 3, 2010.  Accessed from the Library of Congress, online at https://www.loc.gov/item/2010636978/, 2/15/22.


Used for Audio

Jeff Adelson, “
New Orleans segregation, racial disparity likely worsened by post-Katrina policies, report says,” Nola.com (New Orleans Times-Picayune and New Orleans Advocate), April 5, 2018.

Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1998. 

ADDED 5-24-22: Jeremy Cox, Historically Black beach to be saved as Annapolis parkland,Bay Journal, April 1, 2022.

Waldo E. Martin, Jr., and Patricia Sullivan, Civil Rights in the United States, Vol. One, Macmillian Reference USA, New York, 2000.

Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, Transport on James River: “African Presence in Virginia,” undated, online at https://www.middlepassageproject.org/2020/04/29/african-presence-in-virginia/.  

National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis, Tenn.), “Jim Crow Water Dippers,” online at https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/from-the-vault/posts/water-dippers.

Tyler Parry, “The Role of Water in African American History,” Black Perspectives, African American Intellectual History Society, May 4, 2018, online at https://www.aaihs.org/the-role-of-water-in-african-american-history/. 

James Patterson, Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, and New York, N.Y., 1996.

Donald M. Sweig, “The Importation of African Slaves to the Potomac River, 1732-1772,” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 4 (October 1985), pages 507-524; online at https://www.jstor.org/stable/1919032?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents.

Virginia Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law, “Identifying and addressing the vestiges of inequity and inequality in Virginia’s laws,” November 15, 2020, online at https://www.governor.virginia.gov/racial-inequity-commission/reports/, as of August 2021.  As of February 2022, this report is no longer available at this URL.  A description of the project is available in a February 10, 2021, news release from then Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, online at https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2021/february/headline-892615-en.html.

Victoria W. Wolcott, “The forgotten history of segregated swimming pools and amusement parks,” UB NOW, University of Buffalo, July 11, 2019. 

Ed Worley, “Water fountains symbolize 1960s civil rights movement,” U.S. Army blog (unnamed), February 22, 2018, online at https://www.army.mil/article/200456/water_fountains_symbolize_1960s_civil_rights_movement.

Water Citizen LLC, “Until Justice Rolls Down Like Waters—Water & the Civil Rights Movement,” Water Citizen News, January 16, 2014, online at http://watercitizennews.com/until-justice-rolls-down-like-water-water-the-civil-rights-movement/. 

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, HarperCollins, New York, N.Y., 2003.

For More Information about Civil Rights in the United States

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), “The Civil Rights Movement in America,” online at https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zcpcwmn/revision/1.

Georgetown Law Library, “A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States,” online at https://guides.ll.georgetown.edu/civilrights.

Howard University Law Library, “A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States,” online at https://library.law.howard.edu/civilrightshistory/intro. 

University of Maryland School of Law/Thurgood Marshall Law Library, “Historical Publications of the United States Commission on Civil Rights,” online at https://law.umaryland.libguides.com/commission_civil_rights.

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, online at https://www.usccr.gov/.

U.S. House of Representatives, “Constitutional Amendments and Major Civil Rights Acts of Congress Referenced in Black Americans in Congress,” online at https://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/BAIC/Historical-Data/Constitutional-Amendments-and-Legislation/.

U.S. National Archives, “The Constitution of the United States,” online at https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the “History” subject category.

This episode is part of the series, Exploring Water in U.S. Civil Rights History.  As of February 14, 2022, other episodes in the series are as follows:

Episode 566, 3-1-21 – series overview.
Episode 591, 8-23-21
– water symbolism in African American civil rights history.

Following are links to some other previous episodes on the history of African Americans in Virginia.

Episode 459, 2-11-19 – on Abraham Lincoln’s arrival in Richmond at the end of the Civil War.
Episode 128, 9-17-12
– on Chesapeake Bay Menhaden fishing crews and music.
Episode 458, 2-4-19
– on Nonesuch and Rocketts Landing in Richmond. 


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 History Theme
1.2 – Virginia history and life in present-day Virginia.

Grades K-3 Civics Theme
3.12 – Importance of government in community, Virginia, and the United States, including government protecting rights and property of individuals.
3.13 – People of America’s diversity of ethnic origins, customs, and traditions, under a republican form of government with respect for individual rights and freedoms.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.7 – Civil War issues and events, including the role of Virginia and the role of various ethnic groups.
VS.8 – Reconstruction era in Virginia, including “Jim Crow” issues and industrialization.
VS.9 – How national events affected Virginia and its citizens.

United States History to 1865 Course
USI.5 – Factors that shaped colonial America and conditions in the colonies, including how people interacted with the environment to produce goods and service.
USI.9 – Causes, events, and effects of the Civil War.

United States History: 1865-to-Present Course
USII.3 – Effects of Reconstruction on American life.
USII.4 – Developments and changes in the period 1877 to early 1900s.
USII.6 – Social, economic, and technological changes from the 1890s to 1945.
USII.8 – Economic, social, and political transformation of the United States and the world after World War II.
USII.9 – Domestic and international issues during the second half of the 20th Century and the early 21st Century.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.2 – Foundations, purposes, and components of the U.S. Constitution.
CE.3 – Citizenship rights, duties, and responsibilities.
CE.6 – Government at the national level.
CE.7 – Government at the state level.
CE.8 – Government at the local level.
CE.10 – Public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – How selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.3 – How regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.

Virginia and United States History Course
VUS.6 – Major events in Virginia and the United States in the first half of the 19th Century.
VUS.7 – Knowledge of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras.
VUS.13 – Changes in the United States in the second half of the 20th Century.
VUS.14 – Political and social conditions in the 21st Century.

Government Course
GOVT.4 – Purposes, principles, and structure of the U.S. Constitution.
GOVT.5 – Federal system of government in the United States.
GOVT.7 – National government organization and powers.
GOVT.8 – State and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – Public policy process at local, state, and national levels.
GOVT.11 – Civil liberties and civil rights.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.