This investigation used case studies to identify barriers to swimming and water safety education for African Americans. The focus was on urban areas and exam-ines the physical and social settings offering recreational learn-to-swim programs through the experiences of African Americans. The findings include statements by parents of participants, swimming instructors, and nonswimmers. There was agreement that a lack of access and exposure to swimming exists for people who are African American. Knowledge or learning to swim can be viewed as cultural capital; for those not learning to swim, it is a cultural liability. This is a cycle in which the lack of access results in institutional decisions that maintain the lack of access to knowledge on water safety.