In 1969, Father Boniface Hardin established Martin Center at 35th  Street and College Avenue. Much like the organization’s namesakes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and St. Martin de Porres, the first Black saint from the Americas, Father Hardin wanted his work at the newly created agency to help racial minorities and the poor. Working alongside the reverend in this effort was Sister Jane Schilling, a civil rights advocate and Hardin’s longtime collaborator.

Martin Center, 1973 Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source

Martin Center offered numerous social services and programs. One of the earliest initiatives was anti-racism training, which was available to people of all races and backgrounds. As word of this program spread, attendance came to include the employees of major corporations in Indianapolis.

The Institute of Afro-American Studies was developed at Martin Center to increase awareness and appreciation of Black history and culture. Information of this nature was largely disseminated through programs and publications produced by Father Hardin and Sister Schilling. The best-known were The Afro-American Journal, the Afro-American in Indiana radio show, which aired on WIAN (90.1 FM) (later to become WFYI) from 1971–1991, and Afro-American, which aired on television station WFYI (Channel 20) in the 1970s.

The Indianapolis Sickle Cell Center was established at Martin Center by Father Hardin and Dr. Raymond O. Pierce in 1971. Its purpose was to educate the community about sickle cell disease (SCD), a group of inherited red blood cell disorders that predominantly affects Black people. A year after its founding, the center received government funding to study the disease as well as test individuals for the disorder.

During his time at Martin Center, Father Hardin realized that many of the people he interacted with at the agency were barred from career advancement because they lacked a college degree. He decided to address this problem by establishing Martin Center College (later renamed Martin University) with Sister Schilling in 1977. Originally located inside Martin Center, the school moved to the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood in 1987.

After 43 years in operation, Martin Center was renamed Martin Center-Sickle Cell Initiative (MCSCI) in 2012. This change reflected the organization’s growing focus on the disorder. As of 2020, MCSCI provides client services, patient and family advocacy, and educational resources to people affected by sickle cell disease as well as sickle cell trait (SCT).

Revised March 2021

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