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Brian Biery, More Pasadena History

By Blog Master
Posted: 09/23/2022

Notes by Sharon Jarrett



Brian Biery was returning to the group to share additional stories and facts not shared at his first presentation on Pasadena's history. He reminded attendees that personal stories and experiences are important to the comprehensive understanding of the historical record and are important to creating agents of change, building inclusive communities and places of equity.


He then shared a series of slides which illustrated historical acts of discrimination and marginalization of various communities in Pasadena.


Brookside Plunge


Built in 1914, the pool was built with donated funds and upon opening prohibited use by African American community members. A community organization filed a lawsuit and the plunge was closed for five years. After the closure, a compromise was reached establishing an International Day once a week when community members of color could use the pool.


Mr. Biery asked the group 2 questions: How did this impact individuals? What is the loss to society of exclusionary behavior?


He then shared the story of Olympic diver and coach Dr. Sammy Lee. Dr. Lee was not permitted to use the diving board at the pool other than on International Day. He used a sandpit to practice other days of the week.


The following questions were raised:


Why was International Day established? How do you feel about International Day? What do you think about Dr. Lee's story. What would you have done in this situation?


1919 Lawsuit


In 1919, the NAACP filed a lawsuit against the City for restricting access to a public benefit by restricting access to the pool. The case was litigated for 27 years with the California Supreme Court eventually determining restricting use was unlawful. 


Participants noted the following: the use of the term International Day was interesting, a number of participants noted they had lived in communities that had similar practices and restricting use of pools was common in California. A question was raised about the possibility of mounting an exhibit at the current Aquatic Center addressing this history.


Review of Redlining, Jim Crow and Segregation


A picture of an orange packing business was used to illustrate discrimination against Chinese immigrants.


The Great Migration and it's association with Jim Crow laws was discussed and the book "West of Jim Crow: The Fight Against California's Color Line" by Lynn Hudson was recommended.


The story of James Woods was reviewed. Woods was the founder of the first mortuary serving the African American Community. Upon his death, the business passed to his nephew and the company became Woods-Valentine Mortuary which is still in operation. The business was forced to move locations when the 210 freeway was built.


The presentation then addressed the early founding of the city and the fact that the population was more diverse. This was due to the need for various types of laborers to support not just businesses bu, estates, mansions and hotels.  


De Jure versus De Facto Segregation


A review of the sundown laws was provided and it was pointed out that Glendale has removed the sundown town regulations from its books and apologized.


Japanese American Stories


The history of the Uchida Family who own Bellefontaine Nursery was reviewed. It was noted that when the Family was interned at Gila River Internment Camp, the community took care of the business which was not typical.


Robinson Memorial


The story of Jackie and Mack Robinson were reviewed. Participants were asked what they would have done to ensure Mack Robinson was acknowledged for his contributions to athletics and the City.


The meeting concluded with some suggestions about how to make a more equitable and just community including:


Change institutions

Support businesses owned by community members of color and women

Expand DEI

Teach critical thinking

Celebrate progress


A recording of this presentation is available as "More Pasadena History of Discrimination ".




The next meeting will be October 7, 2022 at 10:00 AM PST. 


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