Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day offers America a day to reflect on King’s life and his legacy while offering an opportunity to consider the struggles, challenges and achievements of our nation’s civil rights.

In February of 2008, the International Swimming Hall of Fame, located in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., presented “Black Splash,” highlighting the history and contributions by black swimmers to the sport.

Written and compiled by Lee Pitts, “Black Splash” introduces the visitor to the story of Kentucky slave Tice Davids who escaped his master in 1831 and swam across the river to freedom in Ohio. According to Pitts, the Davids’ legend claims the slave’s owner chased him in his boat and eventually lost sight of Tice in the water. When Tice’s owner returned to shore and told others of his pursuit of Davids, he commented that Tice must have taken the “Underground Railroad,” introducing this description into American history, Pitts suggests.

“Black Splash” also introduces the viewer to the swimming contributions of Andrew Young, the former mayor of Atlanta. Young swam competitively in the early 1950s at Howard University, a period in America when pools were segregated and often banned to blacks, Pitts reports. Young helped appropriate $1.25 million as mayor to the inner city neighborhoods of Atlanta to introduce swimming to the city’s youth.

Approximately 50 years later, Anthony Ervin became the first black swimmer to be named to a U.S. Olympic team. Ervin, competing in the Sydney Olympic games, won a gold medal in the 50 freestyle.

A dozen years earlier in 1988, Boston University backstroker Sybil Smith scored in the NCAA Division I Championship, earning the first scoring spot for a black female American swimmer.

These glimpses of Pitts’ work invite those interested in the history of swimming and those interested in American history to visit “Black Splash.”

Lane lines…

ä Area backstrokers have recorded recent performances deserving of mention.

Friday evening in the Orono Bangor High dual meet, Bangor’s Taylor Wickes and Orono’s Cam Dwyer turned in one of the season’s fastest dual- meet races, speeding to sub-one minute finishes in the 100-yard backstroke with times of 57.2 and 58.9, respectively.

Saturday, competing in the six-team Wheaton College Invitational in Norton, Mass., Ellsworth’s Iris Meehan, swimming for Wheaton, won the 100-yard backstroke event.

Colby College backstroker Kelsey Potvin, following a 58.9 100-yard backstroke, finds herself ranked 15th in the NCAA Division III rankings.

ä Saturday, the University of Maine men and women swimmers and divers host Providence College in an 11 a.m. meet. The Friars (men 3-1, women 1-3) will visit the Black Bears after completing semester training in St Thomas. One of the Friars’ freestylers, junior Own Hughes, swam for Deering High of Portland.

ä According to the Maine Principals’ Association release of Jan. 10, compiled by statistician Ritchie Palmer, Bangor High divers Megan Rowe and Tim Smith are the top-ranked divers in Class A. Interestingly, in the Class B 50 free for girls, Penobscot Valley Conference swimmers hold the second through fourth spots. Marleah Clark of Foxcroft Academy is second at 25.6 seconds, Lauren Dwyer of Orono is third at 25.7 and Mount Desert Island’s Chelsy Curran is fourth at 26. The top ranking belongs to Falmouth’s Andrianne Madden at 25.01.

bdnsports@bangordailynews.net