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As Lia Neal, Cullen Jones, and Anthony Irvin compete in the the 2012 Olympic Games, they are not simply battling the best in the world, they are helping to close the book on a sad chapter in American history.  With each start, each stroke, and each flip-turn, the trio of African-American swimmers are putting the historic (and occasionally more recent) exclusion of African-Americans from America’s pools.  Their presence on this year’s Olympic team and their place among the larger history of black Olympic swimmers (they join Maritza Correia, who won a silver medal in 2004) reminds us of a larger history of racism and exclusion.

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