Why are there 2 YMCAs in Muncie, and what are the differences between them?

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Muncie, Indiana, is a segregated city in the 1950s, which is why it has a YMCA for blacks and a YMCA for whites. The black YMCA offers far less in the way of amenities than the white YMCA.

The black YMCA comprises an entire square block on Third Street. However, a quarter of the outdoor play area is taken up by a pool that was condemned and closed during World War II (the memoir's time in Muncie takes place from the 1950s onward). The black Y also has a small indoor game room, a dirt basketball court, and a "sand-and-gravel" baseball diamond.

In contrast, the white YMCA downtown has a working pool, a far bigger game room, an indoor track, and a gym. Williams says that even at the age of eleven, he felt "cheated" because of the poor facilities he was forced to use as a mixed-race child.

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In Life on the Color Line, Muncie is a deeply segregated city. It lies in the state of Indiana, the national headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan. This makes it an especially difficult place in which to grow up for someone of mixed-race heritage like Greg. Though passing for white, Greg quickly realizes that in Muncie he's regarded as black on account of his relatives. Muncie's segregation extends to every aspect of civic life. The town even has separate branches of the YMCA: one downtown for whites, and the other on Madison Street for African-Americans.

The facilities of the respective YMCAs are separate, but anything but equal. The one that Greg goes to has a basketball court, where he quickly develops a passion for the game. The YMCA also has a swimming pool, but when it springs a leak it never gets fixed. In fact, the pool wouldn't be fixed until desegregation was finally enforced in the state.

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