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Founder of the country's first scuba club for Black divers has trained thousands

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A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

It's Friday, and time for StoryCorps. When Albert Jose Jones was a senior in college, he founded the country's first scuba club for Black divers. Since 1959, the club has trained thousands of divers. Albert is now 93 and has dived all over the world. At StoryCorps, he spoke with his fellow diver and friend Jay Haigler.

ALBERT JOSE JONES: The last thing I wanted to do was start a club and be responsible for a whole lot of people going diving. Once people found out what we were doing, they thought we were crazy, but I almost had to do it. All the rest of the aspiring Black divers out there, how they going to learn?

JAY HAIGLER: Dr. Jones, I remember my first dive. I looked around the boat on the horizon, and I did not see one piece of land. I thought, oh, my God, we are in the middle of the ocean, and I am about to step out of a perfectly good boat. And when we got near the bottom, I saw all this marine life - turtles, blacktip reef sharks, barracudas. Right at that moment, I just knew that there was a higher being, and I do remember when I got back up, I could not wait to get back down.

JONES: Divers are always looking for another place to go diving. No matter how many places they've been, they want to go someplace else. I've made over 6,000 dives in 50-something countries, but of all the dives I've been on, if I had to pick the hardest one, it would be diving the slave ship. As soon as we hit the bottom, we found shackles and muskets, swords, you name it.

HAIGLER: How did you feel when you went down there?

JONES: You feel like you're touching the souls of your ancestors. You feel like they're down there with you. Every diver on that boat could have had somebody on that ship.

HAIGLER: Mobile Bay, Ala. - I happen to be one of two African Americans to dive on the slave ship Clotilda, the only slave ship that is intact. But the cargo hold, the area where the 110 enslaved Africans were, was less than 500 square feet, and diving in that cargo hold of ancestors, that still resonates in my heart and in my soul.

JONES: And we always make sure that we honor those people. You know, it's not just swimming around, looking at fish. You know, you're swimming around, looking at history.

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MARTÍNEZ: That was Albert Jones and Jay Haigler for StoryCorps in Silver Spring, Md. Their conversation is archived at the Library of Congress. Albert's diving club has trained more than 3,000 divers and just celebrated its 65th anniversary. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kayla Lattimore
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