This unique event was co-founded in 1987 by the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the United Black Fund, Inc. (UBF) in honor of Black History Month. These two organizations have worked together every year since to produce the first swim meet in the nation to celebrate this important month that highlights the contributions of African Americans to US society.
The invitational was founded with the goals of providing urban youth nationwide with a positive outlet for expression, exposure to strong competition, a forum to meet positive role models, and the opportunity to visit the nation's capital. Since the very first year, DPR and UBF are proud that the Black History Invitational Swim Meet has fulfilled these goals and has grown from a small, local competition to one now hailed by USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport of swimming, as the "premier minority swim competition in the United States and in the World." During the three-day Invitational, youth athletes ranging in age from 5 – 18 will compete in standard swim events, such as the individual medley, freestyle, butterfly, relays, and back and breast strokes; attracting nearly 800 minority competitors, ages 5–18, from swim teams in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Detroit, Cleveland, New York and other metropolitan areas in the United States.