Troubled waters: the integration of the Riviera Club

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Reuben, Emily
Flook, Chris
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My creative project is a 30-minute documentary hosted on a custom-made WordPress website, covering the same topic: the civil rights case of Bates v. Riviera Club Inc., which took place in Indianapolis from 1974-1981. One of the focal points of the documentary is the personal story of my Jewish father, Lawrence Reuben, who served as the lawyer for the plaintiffs Robert Bates and Michael Woodard. Bates, a white member of the Riviera Club, attempted to bring Woodard, his Black friend, to the Riviera Club as a guest. Woodard was denied entry, despite the pair following the club’s guest policies. Lawrence was no stranger to the Riviera Club’s discriminatory policies. Growing up just down the street from the Riviera during the 50s and 60s, Lawrence could never join his peers in the institution’s pools. The club’s policies were well known: No Blacks. No Jews. Many key individuals involved with this lawsuit have passed since the court case’s resolution, including Lawrence Reuben. Though the case was scandalous at the time, it remains in the form of old stories in several defunct Indianapolis papers and archived newspaper content secured behind a paywall. What can be freely found about the case is scattered across the internet and must be actively researched by previously interested parties to learn adequately about the case. The website and documentary provide a combination of original interviews and research. In addition to books and historical documents, I draw upon archives from various Indiana newspapers and professionals within the Indianapolis community. Interviews for this project are conducted with individuals directly involved with the Bates v. Riviera Club Inc. case, current Riviera Club staff, and professionals in the field of history and Jewish studies.