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Mimi Jones (1947 – 2020), civil rights activist known for St. Augustine “swim-in”

by Linnea Crowther

Mimi Jones was a civil rights activist who was the subject of a nationally famous photograph of a “swim-in” in St. Augustine, Florida.

Activism in St. Augustine and beyond

Jones was just a teenager in 1964 when she was galvanized by the Civil Rights Movement to travel from her home in Georgia to St. Augustine to participate in a protest that helped change the face of America. White activists had rented rooms in a segregated motel, and Black activists joined them to swim in the pool as their guests. At the same time, other activists were swimming at the segregated beaches of St. Augustine, a city where protests and demonstrations were ongoing.

As Jones and fellow activists swam in the motel pool, the motel owner angrily poured acid into the water, stating he was “cleaning the pool.” Rather than receiving medical care, the swimmers were arrested. Jones’ scream as the acid was poured into the pool just behind her was captured in a photograph that was seen around the country. The incident gave President Lyndon B. Johnson the push he needed to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the very next day.

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Jones had already been to 1963’s March on Washington when she joined the St. Augustine protests, and she had been teaching people in her hometown to read so they could register to vote. She continued to fight for social justice all her life, as well as working for the Massachusetts Education Department.

Jones on courage

“I’m often asked, ‘How could you have so much courage?’ Courage for me is not the absence of fear, but what you do in the face of fear.” —from a 2017 interview with WBUR

What people said about her

Full obituary: The Boston Globe

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