Weird History

When A Racist Hotel Manager Poured Acid Into A Pool To Stop Civil Rights

In summer 1964, the tensions compounding around the Civil Rights Movement were heating up faster than the weather in St. Augustine, FL, which was serving as the unofficial - and perhaps accidental - epicenter of the movement. It was there that Martin Luther King Jr. helped organize numerous protests and demonstrations, including one "swim-in" that ended up gaining national attention and forced President Lyndon B. Johnson to take action - because a racist hotel manager poured acid in the pool. 

In response to Martin Luther King Jr.'s unwarranted arrest on June 11, 1964, for attempting to enter the segregated restaurant of the Monson Motor Lodge, demonstrators - white and Black alike - organized a protest at the lodge on June 18, using the whites-only pool as a symbol of resistance by jumping in to swim together, united and unsegregated.

Predictably, the already irate hotel management was further infuriated by this, and in an effort to evict the protesters from the property, the hotel manager, Jimmy Brock, poured a tub of muriatic acid into the pool water. The image of Jimmy Brock pouring acid on a group of young people has since become a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement.

Many of the photographs taken during this incident spurred national uproar and have since become some of the most important images to come out of the Civil Rights era, capturing the bravery of some - and the inhumanity of others.