1746
State

Five enslaved Africans brought to settlement in Indiana

The first Africans arrive in a French settlement in Vincennes, Indiana, where they hunt and farm tobacco and wheat for the population.

Pictured: A white overseer supervises two enslaved women working in a tobacco field, 1798 Credit: Public domain via Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora View Source
1787
National

Northwest Ordinance forbids slavery in any territory or state in the Northwest Territory

The territory, which was ceded to the United States by Great Britain in the Peace of Paris, 1783, ending the War for Independence, includes the future state of Indiana.

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1803
State

Indiana territory adopts new law permitting indentured servitude

The law allows slave holders to bring adult slaves owned or purchased outside the territory into Indiana and keep them bound into service through indentured servitude.

Dec 11, 1816
State

Indiana Constitution prohibits slavery

Indiana’s 1816 Constitution prohibits slavery and indentured servitude. These rights are often denied in practice to African Americans and Native Americans.

Jul 22, 1820
State

State v. Lasselle holds that slavery forbidden in Indiana

Indiana Supreme Court rules in State v. Lasselle that “slavery can have no existence” in Indiana. This decision establishes the 1816 Indiana Constitution as the authority for decisions in Indiana courts regarding slavery and involuntary servitude.

1821
State

Mary Bateman Clark’s case helps end indentured servitude in Indiana

Mary Bateman Clark sues General W. Johnston to end her indentured servitude in an action filed by Attorney Amory Kinney in Vincennes, Indiana. She wins the case on appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court, setting a precedent for future cases and contributing to the end of indentured servitude in Indiana.

1824
State

Indiana adopts a fugitive slave law

The law outlines the procedure slaveholders and Indiana law officials must follow in claiming “property.” All that is required to arrest alleged fugitives is a warrant, which can be obtained from a clerk at any circuit court in the state.

Pictured: A common image used in runaway slave ads, ca. 1830s Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons View Source
Feb 7, 1825
State

Resolution passes for the emancipation of enslaved persons in Indiana

The Indiana General Assembly approves a joint resolution that provides for the gradual emancipation of enslaved persons and foreign colonization.

Nov 4, 1829
Indianapolis

Indiana Colonization Society established in Indianapolis

Prominent civic leaders, such as Indiana Supreme Court judges Jesse L. Holman and Isaac Blackford and attorney Calvin Fletcher, found the organization that aims to colonize free African Americans in Liberia, but few local African Americans accept the offer to relocate. The group becomes inactive by 1839.

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Dec 26, 1829
Indianapolis

Landmark decision against slaveholder’s right to transport enslaved peoples through a free state

Marion County circuit court judge Bethuel F. Morris rules that an enslaved woman and her three children passing through Indiana with their owner are free because slavery is prohibited by the state constitution. The case is one of the first such decisions in the nation, and it is highly controversial in Indiana.

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1830
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 1900 residents, with 64 African Americans.

1835
State

Roberts Settlement established

Hansel Roberts, Elijah Roberts, and Micajah Walden purchase land in Hamilton County near Quakers and other tolerant whites to establish an independent community of African Americans. The settlement grows to include 300 residents and to encompass over 1,500 acres at its peak in the 1870s.

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1836
Indianapolis

African Methodist Episcopal congregation organizes

A group of Black Methodists in Indianapolis forms Bethel AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church. A founder of the denomination, William Paul Quinn serves Indianapolis and other AME stations as pastor. A church building is constructed on Georgia Street, between Senate Avenue and the Central Canal in 1841.

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Pictured: William Paul Quinn, n.d. Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1836
Indianapolis

Court defends the right of African American to defend his property

James Overall, an Indianapolis African American, shoots a white gang member while defending his home and family from attack. Seeking legal protection from further attack, a judge affirms Overall’s “natural” right to defend his family and property.

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1840
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 2, 692 residents, with 122 African Americans.

1840
State

Law prohibiting interracial marriage enacted

The marriage of an Indianapolis couple, a white woman and a mixed-race Black man, sparks outrage and leads to the addition of a state law prohibiting interracial marriage.

Jan 17, 1842
Indianapolis

Indiana State Convention of Colored Citizens

Prominent Blacks, including J. B. Britton, Turner Roberts, and James Overall, hold the convention to declare opposition to Liberia colonization efforts. It is held at Bethel AME Church.

Jul 4, 1845
Indianapolis

Lynching of John Tucker

Three drunk white men murder Tucker while walking home after attending an Independence Day celebration at Military Park. Two of the men are arrested, and one is convicted of manslaughter.

1846
Indianapolis

Second Baptist Church established

African American Baptists form a congregation of their own, the Second Baptist Church. Its structure on Missouri Street between New York and Ohio streets becomes a target for arson when racially charged violence erupts during the 1851 Indiana Constitutional Convention. The congregation rebuilds at the same location in 1853.

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Pictured: Second Baptist Church's third building, built around 1870 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1850
Indianapolis

Population 

The city population totals 8,901, with 405 African Americans.

Aug 1, 1851
State

State Convention of the People of Color

Held at Bethel AME Church, delegates declare that they are entitled to all rights and privileges that other citizens enjoy in opposition to Article 13 of the proposed new state constitution. The article prevents migration of African Americans into the state.

Aug 4, 1851
State

Voters approve the new Indiana Constitution of 1851

Hoosiers statewide overwhelmingly vote for the new constitution, including Article 13 which prevents the migration of African Americans into the state. The constitution becomes effective on November 1, 1851.

Pictured: Constitution of the State of Indiana, 1851 Credit: Indiana State Library View Source
Jun 20, 1853
Indianapolis

Trial of John Freeman

Reverend Pleasant Ellington wrongfully accuses John Freeman of being his runaway enslaved person. Leading citizens come to Freeman’s defense, but he spends nine weeks in jail before the suit is dismissed when Ellington’s evidence proves false. 

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Sep 16, 1856
Indianapolis

Prince Grand Hall of Indiana organizes

Prince Grand Hall of Indiana, an African American fraternal group, organizes in Indianapolis. Membership doubles between 1857 and 1865.

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Pictured: Portrait of Prince Hall, n.d. Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1858
Indianapolis

First school for African American children opens

Indianapolis’s public schools do not allow African American children to attend. Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church founds the city’s first formal school for Black children.

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Jan 25, 1859
State

State Convention of the Colored Men of Indiana

Reverend E. Weaver of Bethel AME Church presides over the convention. Delegates petition the Indiana General Assembly for passage of a law to make African Americans competent witnesses in courts of law.

1860
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 18,611, with 498 African Americans.

Jul 9, 1862
Indianapolis

African American church burned by arsonists

Bethel AME, led by pastor Willis R. Revels, burns to the ground. The fire was intentionally set because of the church’s role in the Underground Railroad. The church contracts to build a new brick church at 414 West Vermont Street in 1867-1869.  

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Pictured: Rev. Willis R. Revels, ca. 1880 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1863
Indianapolis

First Black business established

Nancy Bushrod and Samuel G. Smothers establish a grocery store, making them one of the earliest Black business owners in Indianapolis.

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Mar 14, 1864
Indianapolis

Twenty-eighth Regiment U.S. Colored Troops musters into the U.S. Army

Indiana’s only Black Civil War regiment organizes and trains at Camp Frémont, near Fountain Square in December 1863, before official mustering. In 1864-1865, its troops engage in the Siege of Petersburg, necessary to take the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia.

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Pictured: African American soldiers of the Twenty-eighth Regiment U.S. Colored Troops, ca. 1860s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1865
Indianapolis

Allen Chapel African American Methodist Episcopal Church forms

The church begins as a Sunday School to serve the city’s east side. Samuel A. Elbert, the city’s first Black physician (1871), also establishes a day school for Blacks who live on the east side as part of the church’s mission.

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Oct 24, 1865
State

State Convention of the Colored People of Indiana

Around 150 delegates meet at the Bethel AME Church to call the U.S. and Indiana governments to denounce the “unwholesome and tyrannical laws” that have deprived Blacks from the rights guaranteed to other citizens.

Dec 6, 1865
National

Thirteenth Amendment ratified

The amendment to the United States Constitution abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.

1866
Indianapolis

African American Christian Church established

The congregation receives its first full-time minister in 1867 and later becomes known as Second Christian Church, the city’s first African American Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation. It changes its name to Light of the World Christian Church in 1984.

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Pictured: Second Christian Church, 1913 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Nov 6, 1866
State

Grand Equal Rights League convenes

About 100 delegates call on the Indiana General Assembly to pass legislation to allow African Americans the right to vote.

Jan 23, 1867
State

The Indiana General Assembly ratifies the Fourteenth Amendment

Indiana becomes the 16th state to ratify the amendment that provides full citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the U.S., including former enslaved persons, and guarantees them “equal protection under the law.”

1869
Indianapolis

Mt. Zion Baptist congregation established

A small group of former enslaved and free Blacks form Mt. Zion Baptist Church. They meet in a tool shed donated by banker and landowner Stoughton Fletcher Sr. The congregation moves to 3500 Graceland Ave in 1960, where under the leadership of Reverend R. T. Andrews, it responds to the needs of its community, developing a geriatric center, senior apartment complexes, and a Well Baby clinic. 

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1869
Indianapolis

Baptist Minister Alliance forms

African American Baptist ministers join with the mission to promote their work across the area and to create opportunities for pastoral professional development. It continues to carry out this mission in the 21st century.

May 13, 1869
State

Indiana adopts separate but equal public schools for African American children

Indiana adopts separate but equal public schools for African American children.

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May 14, 1869
State

Indiana General Assembly ratifies 15th amendment

Indiana becomes the 14th state to ratify the amendment that allows all men regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” to vote.

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1870
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 48,244, with 2,931 African Americans.

May 1, 1870
Indianapolis

Quakers establish Indianapolis Asylum for Friendless Colored Children

The local Orthodox Friends Meeting, the main branch of the Society of Friends (Quakers), founds the institution which is the only orphanage in the state and one of only a handful in the country to care for African American children. 

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Pictured: Infants in a crib outside the Indianapolis Asylum for Friendless Colored Children, ca. 1923 Credit: General Photograph Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library View Source
1871
State

Samuel A. Elbert becomes the first African American in Indiana to receive a medical degree

Admitted to Indiana Medical College in 1869, Elbert receives his degree in 1871 and joins the Indianapolis Board of Health the following year.

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1872
Indianapolis

Jones Tabernacle AME Zion Church forms

The congregation constructs a building at the corner of North and Blackford streets in 1882 and then moves to Michigan and Blackford in 1920. The church is important to the life of the community surrounding Indiana Avenue and becomes one of the largest congregations in the city.

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1874
State

Cory v. Carter forbids Black students from attending white schools

The Indiana Supreme Court upholds the 1869 school law, strictly forbidding Black and white students from attending the same schools.

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Mar 1, 1875
National

Federal Civil Rights Act guarantees full and equal enjoyment

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 affirms the “equality of all men before the law” and prohibits racial discrimination in public places and facilities such as restaurants and public transportation.

Pictured: Harper's Weekly celebrated the passage of the Civil Rights Bill of 1875 with a tribute entitled "To Thine Own Self Be True," 1875 Credit: Harpers Weekly View Source
1876
Indianapolis

First Black student graduates from Shortridge High School

Mary Alice Rann becomes the first of several Black students to graduate from Shortridge prior to the 1927 opening of Crispus Attucks High School.

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1876
Indianapolis

Grand Body of the Sisters of Charity established

The charity is organized to provide general support to the Black population settling in Indiana from the South after the Civil War. Its work supporting those in need continues until the 1990s.

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May 3, 1876
Indianapolis

Election Riot

Black citizens are physically intimidated and assaulted by a white mob and rogue police officers trying to suppress the Black vote.

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Pictured: Illustration of a Black man being intimidated at the polls, 1876 Credit: Harpers Weekly View Source
May 19, 1876
Indianapolis

First African American firemen

Chief W. O. Sherwood hires four African Americans to form Hose Company 9, originally located at 31 West Saint Joseph Street. It moves to 441 Indiana Avenue and then, when stations are renumbered in 1922, becomes Station No. 1.

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1877
State

General Assembly passes act for separate schools for African Americans

To clarify the 1869 law, state lawmakers pass a new act that continues to make the organization of segregated schools lawful, but if a township cannot provide the necessary facilities then Black students must attend white schools.

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May 1, 1877
Indianapolis

First African American elected to serve on the Indianapolis City Council

Robert Bruce Bagby becomes the first African American to serve on the Indianapolis City Council. He remains on the council until 1879.

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Aug 30, 1879
Indianapolis

Indianapolis Leader begins publication

In August, the Bagby brothers—Benjamin, James, and Robert—establish the Indianapolis Leader, a four-page weekly newspaper for the city’s Black citizens. It is the first African-American paper in Indianapolis.

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1880
Indianapolis

Population 

The city population totals 75,056, with 6,504 African Americans.

1880
Indianapolis

St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic parish opens

Bishop Francis Silas Chatard establishes St. Bridget’s on the near west side. Although founded as an ethnic Irish parish, St. Bridget’s soon serves Black families who live in the area.  

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Pictured: St. Bridget's Roman Catholic Church, 1983 Credit: University Library, IUPUI via Indiana State Library View Source
1880
Indianapolis

African American Knights of Labor Union forms in Indianapolis

This nationwide labor union fights for workers’ rights. It is the only union to enlist African Americans and demand equal rights for formerly enslaved people.

Mar 1, 1880
Indianapolis

First Black man elected to General Assembly

Known in Indianapolis for his public speaking on civil rights, James S. Hinton is the first Black man elected to represent Marion County in the State House of Representatives.

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Pictured: James Hinton, 1880 Credit: Indiana State Library View Source
Apr 12, 1882
Indianapolis

James T. V. Hill becomes the first Black man to earn law degree

Hill is the first Black man to enroll in the Central Law School, a proprietary school organized by former Butler University professors, in 1879. He later establishes himself as the first Black attorney in Marion County and the first Black man to serve on a grand jury in Indiana.

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Pictured: James V. T. Hill, 1923 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1883
Indianapolis

Indianapolis Colored World begins publication

Edward E. Cooper and Edwin F. Horn launch the Democratic newspaper, which covers national and local news and reports on the conditions of African American people nationwide.

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Oct 15, 1883
National

Civil Rights Act of 1875 ruled unconstitutional

The United States Supreme Court rules that the act, which forbids discrimination in public spaces, is unconstitutional and not authorized by the 13th or 14th Amendments.

Jul 31, 1886
Indianapolis

Alpha Home for Aged Colored Women opens

Founded by Eliza Goff, a housekeeper and former enslaved person, the home cares for elderly and infirm African American women with no families or means of caring for themselves. 

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Pictured: View of the three-story Alpha Home for Aged Colored Women located on Boulevard Place, ca. 1930s Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1888
Indianapolis

Freeman journal begins publication

Edward E. Cooper, formerly with the Indianapolis World, launches the Freeman, a Democratic-oriented publication, in July 1888. He claims it to be the only illustrated African American journal. 

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Pictured: The Freeman newspaper header, 1898 Credit: The Freeman View Source
1890
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 105,436, with 9,133 African Americans.

1890
Indianapolis

Willis Mortuary established

Cassius M. Clay Willis establishes the first permanent Black funeral home, Willis Mortuary, which remains in business for over a century.

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Pictured: C. M. C. Wilis & Sons Funeral Directors, ca. 1920 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1892
Indianapolis

St. Bridget’s Catholic Parish opens African American school

Father Daniel Curran, pastor of St. Bridget’s, opens St. Ann’s School, located at 844 Fayette Street, to serve the city’s Catholic Black children. The school remains in operation until 1919 when St. Rita’s Parish opens as the African American Catholic church and establishes its own school.

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Nov 1, 1892
Indianapolis

William D. McCoy named U.S. minister and consul-general to Liberia

President Benjamin Harrison appoints McCoy, an Indianapolis Public School principal, general consul to Liberia. McCoy dies in Monrovia on May 16, 1893.

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1894
Indianapolis

First Black physician at city hospital

Sumner A. Furniss successfully competes for a City Hospital internship, becoming the first African American physician to work at the hospital. He starts his own practice the following year.

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Pictured: Dr. Sumner A. Furniss, ca. 1920s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1895
Indianapolis

Indianapolis Recorder begins publication

Printshop owner George P. Stewart and attorney William Porter launch the publication as a two-page church directory. In 1897, it is expanded to four pages and adopts the Recorder  name.

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May 18, 1896
National

Plessy v. Ferguson enshrines segregation as lawful

The U.S. Supreme Court rules to uphold a Louisiana state law that allows for “equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races.” It means that racially segregated facilities do not violate the U.S. Constitution.

Aug 10, 1896
Indianapolis

Black cyclist Major Taylor sets records

Taylor sets several unofficial records in August at Indianapolis’ Capital City bike track, which results in numerous death threats. Indianapolis bicycling tracks are subsequently restricted to whites only.

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Pictured: Portrait of Major Taylor, 1906-1907 Credit: Jules Beau via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1897
Indianapolis

Beulah Wright Porter becomes first woman African American physician

A graduate of the Indiana Medical College, a private proprietary school established in 1869, Porter treats mostly African American women and children. She is instrumental in turning the attention of the Woman’s Improvement Club toward combatting tuberculosis in the African American community.

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1898
Indianapolis

Flanner House established

Frank William Flanner donates a cottage for the creation of the Flanner Guild (later Flanner House), the first settlement house for African Americans in the city. 

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Pictured: Flanner House Clinical Building, ca. 1920s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1900
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 169,164, with 15,931 African Americans.

1900
Indianapolis

Lillian Thomas Fox begins writing for the Indianapolis News

Fox becomes the first African American to write a regular column for a white newspaper in the state of Indiana.

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Pictured: Lillian Thomas Fox, 1905 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder, August 12, 1905, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1900
Indianapolis

Black leaders form precursor to the Senate Avenue YMCA

Formed in response to Indianapolis YMCA’s denial of Black applicants, it offers adult education, Bible studies, meeting space, and a basketball team. The organization becomes a branch of the city YMCA in 1902 and then moves to a new building on Senate Avenue in 1913.

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Pictured: The organization later becomes the Senate Avenue YMCA, shown here in 1914. Credit: Madam C.J. Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1902
Indianapolis

Bachelor Benedict Club founded

The social club promotes community values and social awareness through meetings and gatherings among accomplished Black men in Indianapolis. The name is changed to Bachelor Benedict Club in 1914 to account for the many married members.

1903
Indianapolis

Woman’s Improvement Club organizes

Lillian Thomas Fox and other prominent African American women found the self-improvement club. It later becomes known for efforts to provide tuberculosis care for African Americans.

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Sep 9, 1903
Indianapolis

Aesculapian Medical Society organized

A group of Black physicians, dentists, and pharmacists in Indianapolis formed the society. They establish the organization in response to the refusal of the Indianapolis Medical Society and Indiana State Medical Association to admit Black physicians.

Read More »
Pictured: W. R. Brown and I. B. Johnson of the Aesculapian Medical Society showing X-rays, ca. 1950s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Dec 5, 1903
State

Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) founded

At its start, IHSAA denies Black public high schools from participating in basketball leagues and tournaments from 1903 until the 1942-1943 season.

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1904
Indianapolis

African American YMCA Monster Meetings begin

The meetings for African American men and boys begin as an evangelical effort but their scheme broadens to include social, political, and economic topics. The forum draws national leaders such as Booker T. Washington, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr. before it dissolves in the late 1960s.

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Apr 27, 1904
Indianapolis

Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs founded

Black women’s organizations from Indianapolis, South Bend, Anderson, Marion, Muncie, and Terre Haute form the Indiana State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. The group focuses on the improvement of education, health, living standards, and interracial understanding.

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Pictured: Indiana State Federation of Colored Women's Club, ca. 1927 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1905
Indianapolis

Women’s Improvement Club opens fresh-air camp for Black tuberculosis patients

Dr. Beulah Wright Porter Prices leads the initiative to establish what is believed to be the first fresh-air camp for tuberculosis patients in the U.S. It remains in operation until October 1916.

Read More »
1907
Indianapolis

The Indianapolis ABC’s baseball team forms

Named for the American Brewing Company, the ABC’s begin as an independent team but become a charter member of the Negro National League in 1920.

Read More »
Jan 3, 1907
Indianapolis

Black Elks Lodge established

Indiana Elks Lodge #104 becomes the first Black Elks lodge in both Indianapolis and Indiana.

1909
Indianapolis

Garfield T. Haywood founds Christ Temple Apostolic Faith Assembly

Haywood’s church quickly becomes the largest Pentecostal church congregation in Indianapolis with over 1,000 members, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World denomination moves its headquarters to Indianapolis in 1915.

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Sep 14, 1909
Indianapolis

Lincoln Hospital Association incorporates

African American physicians establish the organization after being barred from treating their Black patients in city hospitals. The hospital opens on December 15 and remains in operation until 1915.

Read More »
1910
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 233,650, with 21,816 African Americans.

1910
Indianapolis

Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company moves to Indianapolis

Madame C. J. Walker moves her successful haircare and product business to Indianapolis. She purchases a home at 640 N. West Street and remodels a stable and warehouse on the property into a factory and office.

Read More »
Pictured: By 1911, Madam Walker turned the home she purchased at 640 North West Street into her home, office, salon and factory. Credit: Madam C.J. Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1911
Indianapolis

The Grand Body of the Sisters of Charity Hospital opens

The women’s club opens a 14-bed hospital at 15th and Missouri streets, becoming the second to care for the city’s Black community. The organization provides in-patient care and nurse training programs to African Americans until it closes for lack of funds in 1921.

Read More »
Pictured: Grand Body of the Sisters of Charity hospital, 1911 Credit: Indianapolis News View Source
Feb 11, 1911
Indianapolis

Dedication of Black Knights of Pythias building

The building, constructed at 701-703 N. Senate Avenue, combines the 11 Indianapolis lodges that have arisen in Indianapolis and provides a central location for the fraternal order in the state.

Nov 8, 1911
Indianapolis

First Black firefighter falls in the line of duty

Thomas Smith, one of the first four Black firefighters hired for the African American Hose Company, dies when a streetcar hits the hose wagon in which he was riding.

Read More »
1912
Indianapolis

Indianapolis branch of NAACP organizes

Mary Cable organizes the branch and becomes its first president. The organization helps Black citizens access rights guaranteed under U.S. Constitution. Within three years, the branch has 200 members.

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1912
Indianapolis

Civic leaders lay the cornerstone of the Senate Avenue YMCA

Senate Avenue YMCA construction begins in October 1912. It offers young African American men a variety of cultural, recreational, religious, and physical exercise programs. It also provides educational classes and dormitory facilities.

Read More »
Pictured: Madam C.J. Walker, Booker T. Washington, George Knox, F.B. Ransom, A.E. Manning, Dr. Joseph H. Ward, R.W. Bullock, and Thomas Taylor at the dedication of the Senate Avenue YMCA, 1912 Credit: Madam C.J. Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 12, 1912
Indianapolis

First Black branch of Equal Suffrage Association of Indiana

Carrie Ross Barnes is the president of the branch, which provides Black women a voice that previously has been denied in predominantly white suffrage groups.

Read More »
Pictured: Carrie Ross Barnes, ca. 1910s Credit: Susan Ross via IndyStar View Source
1916
Indianapolis

St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church established

Beginning with three members, the African American congregation constructs its first building at 17th Street and Martindale Avenue in 1926.

Read More »
1917
Indianapolis

Dr. Sumner A. Furniss elected to Indianapolis City Council

Furniss, a member of the Marion County Republican executive committee, becomes the second African American to serve on the City Council. 

Read More »
Jun 15, 1918
Indianapolis

First woman hired to serve on police force

Emma Christy Baker, a Black woman, becomes the first woman to serve as a police officer for the Indianapolis Police Department. She primarily works outside the station, patrolling public places downtown.

Read More »
Pictured: Emma Baker was recruited in 1918 as part of the Indianapolis Police Department's all-women unit. She retired in 1939 after finishing her career as a jail matron. Credit: Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library View Source
Aug 3, 1919
Indianapolis

St. Rita Catholic Church, the diocese’s first African American parish, dedicated

Established by Bishop Joseph Chartrand, the African American church is located at 19th and Arsenal streets in the Martindale neighborhood. A small school also opens in the parish to serve the city’s Black Catholic children.

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Pictured: St. Rita's Catholic Church, ca. 1965 Credit: The Indiana Album: Evan Finch Collection View Source
1920
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 314,194, with 34,678 African Americans.

May 2, 1920
Indianapolis

Washington Park hosts first game of the Negro National League

The Negro National League incorporates with teams in six midwestern cities. Indiana’s team is the Indianapolis ABCs, managed by C. I. Taylor, a famed early Black baseball manager.

Read More »
Pictured: Rube Foster of the Chicago American Giants, J. D. Howard, and C. I. Taylor of the Indianapolis ABCs, 1916 Credit: Public Doman View Source
1921
Indianapolis

Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the YWCA organizes

This branch seeks to educate and empower the women and girls of Indianapolis’s African American community. It opens in a building that previously housed the Senate Avenue YMCA. 

Read More »
Pictured: Children Playing at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, 1927 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1921
Indianapolis

Premiere of Shuffle Along, a musical

Indianapolis native Noble Sissle writes and produces the musical with three other musicians. It marks the revival of African  American folk humor, jazz dance, and Ragtime. 

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Pictured: Noble Lee Sissle shown with singer Lena Horne, ca. 1918 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1921
Indianapolis

Eastern Star Missionary Baptist Church established

Originally organized as a mission of 12 people, the church opens at the corner of 22nd Street and Columbia Avenue. By the late 20th century, it becomes the largest predominantly African American congregation in Indianapolis. 

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Pictured: Vacation Bible School at Eastern Star Baptist Church, ca. 1960s Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
May 16, 1921
Indianapolis

Paul Laurence Dunbar Indianapolis Public Library branch opens

Named for Black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, the library branch opens inside segregated Indianapolis Public School No. 26. Lillian Childress Hall, the first African American that the Indianapolis Public Library employs, serves as its first director. The branch remains open until 1967.

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Pictured: Story Hour Under the Umbrella at Dunbar Library, 1936 Credit: Indianapolis Marion County Public Library View Source
Jul 7, 1921
Indianapolis

Frederick Douglass Park opens

Named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the Indianapolis Parks Department designates the park as separate and solely for African Americans. This discriminatory policy lasts until the 1960s. Activities at the park include little league baseball, golf, and social events. 

Nov 12, 1922
Indianapolis

Sigma Gamma Rho established

Seven Black women at Butler University found the only Black sorority established on a predominately white campus. The sorority protests discriminatory practices as well as emphasizes sisterhood, service, and scholarship.

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Nov 24, 1922
Indianapolis

First known Black law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty

Indianapolis officer William Whitfield sustains a gunshot wound while pursuing a suspect. He dies five months later from the injury.

Pictured: William Whitfield, ca. 1900s Credit: Indianapolis Marion County Public Library View Source
Dec 12, 1922
Indianapolis

Indianapolis School Board votes for a segregated high school

The school board proposes the construction of a separate public high school for Black students. The city’s Black community, who worry that a segregated high school will result in inferior facilities and educational opportunities for their children, protest the proposal.

Read More »
1923
Indianapolis

School Board establishes new elementary school boundaries resulting in segregation

The school board sets up new boundaries for four Black elementary schools, removing Black children from previously mixed schools and white children from schools in predominantly Black neighborhoods.

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1924
Indianapolis

Dr. Joseph H. Ward becomes the first African American to lead a major U.S. hospital

Ward, an Indianapolis surgeon, accepts appointment as administrator and chief medical officer of Veterans Hospital #91 at Tuskegee, Alabama. He oversees the 600-bed hospital for the next 12 years.

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May 6, 1924
Indianapolis

First Black Democrat nominated for the Indiana General Assembly

John Bankett, an attorney in Indianapolis, becomes the first Black Democrat nominated for the Indiana General Assembly. He loses the election to white Republican candidate, Charles Bebinger.

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Pictured: John C. Bankett, ca. 1937 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder View Source
Aug 2, 1924
Indianapolis

First running of the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes

African American civic leaders Robert Brokenburr, William “Pres” Ruckner, and white promoter Harry S. Earl establish the Colored Speedway Association when Black race drivers are turned away from the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. They organize the sweepstakes, which runs at the Indiana State Fairgrounds from 1924 to 1936.

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Pictured: Colored Speedway Association officials, Aug. 2, 1924. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1925
Indianapolis

Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist church begins

Reverend C. C. Bates organizes a Sunday school that becomes Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church. The congregation opens the doors of its first church in 1929.

1925
Indianapolis

Marion County Bar Association founded

Excluded from the Indianapolis Bar Association, the organization begins operation as the Marion County Lawyer’s Club. It ensures the professional development of minority attorneys and judges in the city’s legal community.

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Jun 20, 1926
Indianapolis

Mayor Duvall, elected with the support of the Ku Klux Klan, approves new zoning ordinance that negatively impacts Black residents

The Indianapolis City Council, under influence of the KKK, creates residential zoning ordinances preventing Black citizens from living in white neighborhoods.

Aug 7, 1926
Indianapolis

Charlie Wiggins wins his first Gold and Glory Sweepstakes

Wiggins takes the race car he builds while working as a mechanic at an Indianapolis garage to win at the finish line. He comes to dominate the racing series and wins the Indianapolis race again in 1931, 1932, and 1933.

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Pictured: Charlie Wiggins, n.d. Credit: IndyStar View Source
Feb 3, 1927
Indianapolis

Jury convicts white assailant in killing of a Black Indianapolis police officer

A jury in the Hendricks County Circuit Court finds Gene Alger, an 18-year-old college student, guilty of manslaughter in connection with the killing of IPD officer John Buchanan, the second Black officer to fall in the line of duty. Of the five Black IPD officers killed in Indianapolis to date, Alger is the only assailant to have stood trial.

Sep 12, 1927
Indianapolis

Crispus Attucks High School, an all-Black school, opens

Indianapolis opens Crispus Attucks High School to segregate the city’s public secondary education. Matthias Nolcox becomes the first principal and assembles a staff of African American professionals from around the country. 

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Pictured: A student reads outside the front entrance of Crispus Attucks High School while two others converse nearby, 1939 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Dec 26, 1927
Indianapolis

Walker Theatre initial opening

Completed eight years after the death of Madam C. J. Walker, the finished segments of the theatre building open during Christmas week. The entire building opens in August 1928 during the annual Madam Walker Convention.

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1930
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 364,161, with 43,967 African Americans.

1930
Indianapolis

Thomas Edison Marshall wins the United Golf Association National Championship

Marshall, the Douglass Park golf pro, goes on to win again in 1931 and is runner-up the next year at the national tournament for African Americans played at Douglass Park.

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Mar 17, 1930
Indianapolis

Moorish Science Temple of America, No. 15 established

First located on Indiana Avenue, the Indianapolis Temple is part of a new brand of Islam founded after World War I and the first established and operated by African Americans. 

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1931
Indianapolis

The Ferguson Brothers begin building a jazz club empire

Denver and Sea Ferguson, African American leaders in the jazz and entertainment scene, open the Trianon Ballroom at 244 West Vermont Street, followed by the Cotton Club, also on Vermont Street, in 1933. In 1937, they open the Royal Palm Gardens and Sunset Terrace Ballroom on Indiana Avenue.

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Pictured: Wisdom Brothers Band at the Cotton Club, ca. 1950s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1931
Indianapolis

Robert L. Bailey becomes the first African American Indiana assistant attorney general

Bailey, who dedicates his career to civil rights cases, assists Attorney General James Ogden with several important cases. For many years, he is the only Black member of the Indianapolis Bar Association and defends James Cameron in the aftermath of the infamous lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana, on August 7, 1930.

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Pictured: Robert L. Bailey, 1912 Credit: IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law View Source
Sep 3, 1932
Indianapolis

Douglass Park hosts the National Negro Open Golf Championship

Sea H. Ferguson, an influential Indiana Avenue club owner, serves as national secretary of the United Golfers Association, founded in 1925 as the Black U.S. golfing organization. He brings its tournament to Douglass Park. Indianapolis golfer Lucy Whitehead Williams wins the woman’s championship for the first time.

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Jan 9, 1934
Indianapolis

Ella C. Abel earns woman’s National Negro Open Golf Championship title

Douglass Park golfer Ella C. Abel wins the woman’s UGA National Negro Golf Championship in Detroit. She earns her second national title in the event in 1935. Her Indianapolis teammate and competitor, Lucy Williams, retakes the title in 1936, 1937, 1940, and 1946.

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Dec 31, 1934
Indianapolis

First African American Democrat elected to City Council

Dr. Theodore Cable, an Indianapolis dentist, is the first African American to serve as a Democratic city councilman. He is later elected to the Indiana General Assembly. 

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1937
Indianapolis

Federation of Associated Clubs organized

Founded as a coalition of 9 local African American men’s social clubs, it grows to include representatives from 125 different organizations in the area, which enables them to promote a wide range of activities in education, employment, politics, civic projects.

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1938
Indianapolis

Bishop Joseph Ritter ends school segregation in Catholic Diocese of Indianapolis

Ritter announces his decision to end segregation in the city’s Catholic schools. He meets opposition not only from groups like the Ku Klux Klan but also from members of his own clergy. 

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1938
Indianapolis

The Hampton family of jazz musicians moves to Indianapolis

After a successful engagement at the Sunset Ballroom on Indiana Avenue, the family moves to Indianapolis and establishes a jazz family dynasty that includes the Hampton Family Band and the Hampton Sisters (Virtue, Aletra, Carmelita, and Dawn).

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Pictured: Duke Hampton Family Orchestra, ca. 1940s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Feb 28, 1938
Indianapolis

Lockefield Gardens public housing development opens

Beginning during the Great Depression with groundbreaking in 1935, the Public Works Administration’s New Deal plan demolishes 363 houses on 22 acres and replaces them with 748 apartments in 24 buildings, all to be occupied by African Americans. 

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Pictured: Lockefield Gardens Apartments, ca. 1980s Credit: City of Indianapolis, Department of Metropolitan Development, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1938
Indianapolis

Segregated Indianapolis Public School No. 26 expands to become the largest elementary school in Indiana

Enrollment in the school climbs to 1,480 with an addition to alleviate overcrowding at Crispus Attucks High School and new facilities to care for African American students with disabilities.

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Pictured: School No. 26, ca. 1960s Credit: Indianapolis Marion County Public Library View Source
1939
Indianapolis

Flanner House carries out first survey of the Black population

The Indianapolis Foundation funds the study that provides a complete “survey of the financial, educational, cultural, and medical” situation of the city’s Black population.

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1940
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 386,972, with 51,142 African Americans.

Nov 5, 1940
State

Robert Lee Brokenburr becomes first African American elected to Indiana State Senate

Brokenburr, an Indianapolis attorney, serves as a Republican state senator for 20 years. During his tenure, he authors bills that prohibit discrimination and an act that establishes the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. 

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Pictured: Portrait of Robert Lee Brokenburr, n.d. Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1941
Indianapolis

Edna Martin Christian Center founded

Edna Martin, an educator and community leader, begins a daycare that grows to become a faith-based agency aimed at bridging cultural, racial, and economic differences through programs and services for children.

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Pictured: Edna Martin instructs a class at the center, 1955 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder View Source
1942
State

Indiana High School Athletic Association admits African American schools

The Indiana General Assembly passes legislation, introduced by African American state senator Robert Lee Brokenburr, that allows Black and parochial schools to participate in the organization for the first time.

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Pictured: Crispus Attucks Basketball Team, State Champions, Mar. 17, 1956 Credit: William Palmer/Indianapolis News, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1944
Indianapolis

Black baseball team arrives

The Cincinnati Clowns move to Indianapolis and change their name to the Indianapolis–Cincinnati Clowns. Two years later, they decided to stay permanently and drop Cincinnati from their name.

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Pictured: Indianapolis Clowns Team, ca. 1943 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1945
Indianapolis

Boycott at Riverside Amusement Park

 African American residents hold a boycott to protest the park’s segregationist policies, which do not allow African Americans to enter with the exception of one or two days a year.

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Pictured: Riverside Amusement Park advertisement for its "Annual Colored Frolic" day, 1944 Credit: Indianapolis News
1945
Indianapolis

Jazz trumpeter J. J. Johnson tours with Count Basie

National legend Basie recognizes Johnson’s talent, and the trumpeter, who honed his skills at Indiana Avenue clubs, spends a year touring and recording with the jazz musician’s band.

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Pictured: J. J. Johnson (left) and Coleman Hawkins, 1950 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1947
Indianapolis

Andrew J. Brown arrives at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church

Under Brown’s leadership, St. John’s congregation becomes one of the largest and most progressive African American churches in the nation. Brown also becomes an important civil rights leader. In 1986, the city renames Martindale Avenue to Andrew J. Brown Avenue in his honor.

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Pictured: Andrew J. Brown (center) visits Bloomington, 1969 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1947
Indianapolis

First Black lieutenant in police department

George W. Sneed began his career in the Indianapolis Police Department in 1918. An admired and respected officer, he is promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

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Pictured: George Sneed, ca. 1910s Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
Feb 28, 1947
State

Indiana Anti-Hate law passed

With a rise in KKK activity, Indianapolis resident Henry J. Richardson Jr. chairs a legislative committee to advance an anti-hate bill, which passes the General Assembly. The bill makes it unlawful to spread malicious hatred by reason of race, color or religion.

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Pictured: Anti-hate law newsclipping, 1947 Credit: Indianapolis Star View Source
May 3, 1947
Indianapolis

Andrew W. Ramsey begins writing “Voice from the Gallery”

A foreign language teacher in the Indianapolis Public Schools, Ramsey writes his column for the Indianapolis Recorder on numerous topics of local interest to the African American community, including commentary on civil rights issues.

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1948
Indianapolis

Inaugural Dust Bowl Tournament

James “Bruiser” Gaines, program director of Lockefield Gardens Police Athletic League, organizes the first Dust Bowl Tournament. It is held on a dirt basketball court on Colton Street at the south end of the public-housing complex. The annual August event gains notoriety drawing thousands of spectators.

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Pictured: Winners of the Douglass Park Dust Bowl Tourney, 1966 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Feb 11, 1949
State

The General Assembly outlaws segregation in Indiana Public Schools

Within a few days of the passage of House Bill 242, the Indianapolis school board passes a resolution to end segregation in IPS. Despite this action, federal courts later find that the school system has perpetuated the practice.

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Pictured: Indianapolis School Segregation Map, 1948 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1950
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 427,173, with 68,867 African Americans.

1950
Indianapolis

Flanner House Homes project begins

Between 1950 and 1964, Flanner House builds more than 330 homes. The cooperative project, which involves the families who live in the homes, brings national recognition.

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Mar 17, 1951
Indianapolis

Links Club established

Bessie Simpson, an Indianapolis resident, calls together a group of women to establish a local branch of the club. The Links form as a volunteer service organization working to contribute to the cultural, civic, and social well-being of the community.

Pictured: Indianapolis Chapter of Links, 1983 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1952
Indianapolis

Indianapolis Human Rights Commission organized

Authorized by the City Council, but with no legal authority, the commission helps to integrate hospitals, neighborhoods, parks, businesses, and the city’s fire, police, and sanitation departments.

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Oct 31, 1953
Indianapolis

Integration of high schools completed

Even with the integration of the city’s high schools, 11 elementary schools remain all Black and 27 schools are all white because of their geographical location. Approximately 65 percent of the city’s students attend integrated schools.

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Pictured: Teacher with integrated class at School No. 41, 1955 Credit: Indianapolis Marion County Public Library View Source
May 14, 1954
National

Brown v. Board of Education decision

The U.S. Supreme Court rules segregation in schools to be unlawful, stating that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

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Pictured: Mrs. Nettie Hunt, sitting on the steps of the Supreme Court, holding newspaper, explaining to her daughter Nikie the meaning of the Supreme Court's decision banning school segregation, 1954 Credit: Library of Congress View Source
Mar 31, 1955
Indianapolis

Crispus Attucks High School wins state basketball championship

It is the first Indianapolis high school to win the Indiana State High School Basketball Championship since the early 1900s. The team goes on to repeat chamionships in 1956 and 1959. 

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Pictured: Crispus Attucks State Champions, 1955 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Nov 8, 1955
Indianapolis

First African American elected to IPS board

Grant Hawkins, a graduate of Indiana University and owner of a janitorial supplies business, is elected to the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of Commissioners. He serves for four years.

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Pictured: Grant Hawkins, n.d. Credit: Indiana University View Source
1956
Indianapolis

Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association organizes

Concerned about white flight, this neighborhood association forms to promote unity and integration. Working with local and state governments, it succeeds in encouraging an interracial community that becomes a desirable location for young professional families.

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Sep 9, 1957
National

Federal Voting Rights Act signed into law

The act establishes the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department and a federal Civil Rights Commission to provide legal protection against interference with the right to vote.

Pictured: President Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1957 Credit: Public domain via Eisenhower Library View Source
1958
Indianapolis

Mercer Mance becomes Marion County Superior Court judge

Mance is the first African  American in Indiana to be elected as Marion County Superior Court judge. He serves three terms in this position.

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Pictured: Mance is sworn in as the first African American Marion County Superior Court Judge in 1958. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1958
Indianapolis

Central Business District plan released

The plan places Interstate-65 through the near northside, along Indiana Avenue, and extending south through Fountain Square. Public opposition builds quickly against this plan due to displacement and devalued property of the neighborhoods in its path.

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Dec 12, 1958
Indianapolis

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks in Indianapolis

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. holds a speaking event at the Cadle Tabernacle in his first address in Indianapolis. He returns to the city on June 26, 1961, to speak at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

Pictured: Martin Luther King Jr. (center) appeared at an Indianapolis YMCA “Monster Meeting,” 1958 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1959
Indianapolis

Jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery releases his first album, The Wes Montgomery Trio

Montgomery makes a name for himself while playing in clubs on Indiana Avenue. He records his first album with brothers Monk and Buddy on the Riverside record label. 

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Pictured: Wes Montgomery, 1959 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1959
Indianapolis

Reverend Mozel Sanders arrives at Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church

Under Sanders’ leadership, the congregation grows significantly. He launches a radio ministry on WTLC, a job training program, and, in 1974, an annual citywide Thanksgiving dinner. The dinner, renamed the Mozel Sanders Thanksgiving Dinner, continues as a major civic effort with over 40,000 meals prepared each year.

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Pictured: Rev. Mozel Sanders, 1965 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1959
Indianapolis

Indianapolis YWCA board votes to integrate and terminate Phyllis Wheatley branch

The Wheatley branch rejoins the Central YWCA branch. The building, located on the southeast corner of Walnut and West Streets, is sold to the Prince Hall Masonic Temple.

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Pictured: YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Branch, 1929 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1960
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 476,258, with 98,049 African Americans.

1960
Indianapolis

Concerned Clergy group established

Reverend C. V. Jetter, Reverend Andrew J. Brown, and Reverend Mozel Sanders launch Concerned Clergy. The ministers are active in the national civil rights movement and work to end Jim Crow laws.

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1960
Indianapolis

Segregation in the Indianapolis Fire Department ends

Four Black firefighters transfer to two other stations than Station No. 1, and six whites (including a captain and lieutenant) move to what had been the all-Black firehouse, located on Indiana Avenue since 1922.

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1960
Indianapolis

Indianapolis jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard records debut album

Blue Note record company signs Hubbard for his debut album, Open Sesame. During the next year, he releases three more recordings—“Goin’ Up,” “Hub Cap,” and “Ready for Freddie.”

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Pictured: Freddie Hubbard, 1976 Credit: Tom Marcello Webster, New York, USA via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1960
Indianapolis

Indianapolis attorney becomes first Black man to run in a presidential primary

Frank R. Beckwith, a local attorney, runs in the presidential primary race against Richard Nixon and several other Republicans. He receives one-third of the votes in Marion County.

Pictured: Frank Beckwith throws his hat into presidential campaign, 1960 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Feb 17, 1961
Indianapolis

Oscar Robertson becomes the first basketball player to appear on the cover of Time magazine

Robertson is an Indianapolis native and a former Crispus Attucks student and basketball star. Within a year of being drafted by the Cincinnati Royals, he is featured in Time magazine.

Pictured: NBA star, Oscar Robertson is shown here in 1984 shooting a layup prior to a game at Market Square Arena. Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
May 10, 1961
Indianapolis

Homes of two African American families on N. Illinois defaced

Vandals deface two homes that Black people own in a previously all-white block of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood despite the neighborhood organization’s efforts to promote peaceful integration of the community.

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Jun 26, 1961
Indianapolis

Martin Luther King Jr. preaches at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist

As part of a mass meeting and membership drive for the local NAACP chapter, King preaches to more than 1,500 attendees.

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Pictured: Reverend Kelly Miller Smith, Reverend Ralph Abernathy, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., and Revered Andrew Brown addressing an NAACP meeting at Mount Zion Baptist Church, 1951 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Mar 30, 1962
Indianapolis

Indiana University purchases property on Indiana Avenue

IU trustees create Hoosier Realty Corporation to buy Indianapolis properties to allow campus consolidation and expansion. This results in the eventual displacement of the area’s mostly Black residents. 

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Pictured: View of neighborhood looking northeast from Med Science building, ca. 1960 Credit: University Library, IUPUI View Source
Jun 10, 1963
State

Governor Matthew Welsh orders public places to eliminate discriminatory practices

Welsh issues Executive Order 4-63 making it mandatory to provide equal opportunity for all people in places of public accommodation licensed by any state agency.

Pictured: Governor Matthew E. Welsh signs Civil Rights Bill, 1963 Credit: University of Indianapolis View Source
Aug 5, 1963
Indianapolis

Voter registration drive is organized

The Indianapolis Social Action Council organizes a voter registration drive that runs through September to demonstrate voting Black strength.

Pictured: Voter registration drive, 1963 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Aug 10, 1963
Indianapolis

Freedom Rally for Civil Rights

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People holds a freedom rally in downtown Indianapolis focused on promoting civil rights. Around 2,000 Black and white residents attend.

Pictured: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Freedom Rally in Indianapolis, 1963 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Sep 2, 1963
Indianapolis

George Roddy becomes the first African American to win Indianapolis Golf Association City title

Roddy, a Crispus Attucks industrial arts teacher, beats Carmel High School graduate Steve Mayhew by one stroke in the 3-day, 36-hole city tournament.

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1964
Indianapolis

Mattie Coney, a school teacher, founds Citizens Forum

Headquartered in the inner city of Indianapolis, the largely Black organization seeks to improve city neighborhoods through the formation of block clubs and community support.

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Pictured: Elmo and Mattie Coney stand outside of the Citizens Forum building, ca. 1970s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jul 2, 1964
National

National Civil Rights Act of 1964 passes

Congress prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The act outlaws segregation in businesses and public places as well as forbids discriminatory practices in employment.

Pictured: U. S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others look on, July 2, 1964 Credit: Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum; photograph, Cecil Stoughton View Source
Dec 31, 1964
Indianapolis

Daisy Lloyd becomes the first African American woman elected as Indiana state representative

Lloyd, an Indianapolis resident since 1952, is elected as a Democrat to the Indiana General Assembly. While serving, she is diagnosed with breast cancer and becomes one of the first to share her experience with it publicly.

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1965
Indianapolis

Benjamin A. “Doc” Osborne elected Center Township trustee

Osborne, a chiropractor, begins his first of five consecutive terms (1965-1986) as Center Township trustee, making him the longest serving Black official in Indiana at the time and the oldest active trustee in the state.

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1965
Indianapolis

Indianapolis Board of Realtors admits its first Black member

William T. Ray becomes the first accredited Black realtor in Indianapolis and a member of the Indianapolis Real Estate Board. Ray helps end housing discrimination in the northwest suburbs of Indianapolis.

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Pictured: W. T. Ray Realty Company advertisement, 1963 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder View Source
Aug 6, 1965
National

Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed into law

The federal statute outlaws discriminatory voting practices including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting.

Pictured: United States President Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks at the signing of the Voting Rights Act, 1965 Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons View Source
Oct 26, 1965
Indianapolis

Indianapolis Urban League founded

A branch of the National Urban League, the Indianapolis League is founded in the Fall of 1965 as an interracial community-based social service group focused on civil rights.

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Pictured: Urban League Annual Meeting, 1971 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1966
Indianapolis

Andrew Jacobs Jr. introduces the Homes Before Highways bill

In response to the future construction of Interstate-65, the bill seeks to “prohibit the acquisition of land or construction of public works until adequate and comparable replacement homes and churches are available to the displaced.”

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1968
Indianapolis

Indiana Avenue Association founded

African American entrepreneurs create the Indiana Avenue Association and begin work on “Operation Avenue,” one of the city’s many early efforts to rebuild urban areas affected by postwar suburbanization.

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Pictured: Indiana Avenue aerial, ca. 1975 Credit: City of Indianapolis, Department of Metropolitan Development, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1968
Indianapolis

David Baker establishes Jazz Studies program at Indiana University

An Indianapolis native, trombonist, and composer, Baker establishes one of the first jazz studies programs at an American university. It becomes a highly respected and internationally recognized academic jazz program.

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Pictured: David Baker, 1970 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1968
Indianapolis

Black Panther party organizes in Indianapolis

Fred Crawford is inspired to form a Black Panther chapter in his hometown of Indianapolis after attending Black Panther rallies in California. The chapter maintains 20-25 active members throughout its four-year history.

Pictured: Black Panther party logo, n.d. Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1968
Indianapolis

Black Radical Action Project (BRAP) founded

Civil rights activist Snookie Hendricks leads BRAP, the first Black militant group founded in Indianapolis. The group advocates for civil rights.

Read More »
1968
Indianapolis

First Black deputy chief of police

Beginning as a street patrolman in 1934, Spurgeon Davenport is elevated to the rank of deputy chief in the Indianapolis Police Department.

Read More »
Pictured: Indianapolis Police Dept. Spurgeon Davenport, 1970 Credit: James Ramsey, IndyStar View Source
1968
Indianapolis

Three members of the Indianapolis Black Panther chapter arrested

Charged in June 1968 with burglary and conspiracy to murder the police chief and head of police vice squad, a jury convicts two of the defendants in March 1969. When it becomes known that an undercover police officer played a role in the burglary, the Black community meets the decision with outrage.

Pictured: Police carrying shotguns are shown during a raid of the Black Panthers Headquarters that was located on West 30th Street, 1968 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jan 31, 1968
Indianapolis

WTLC-FM debuts as Indianapolis’ only African American owned and operated radio station

WTLC makes its debut on 105.7 FM. The station is the first in Indianapolis to provide 24-hour radio programming for African Americans.

Read More »
Pictured: Ricky Clark was a popular disc jockey on WTLC. Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Apr 4, 1968
National

Robert F. Kennedy’s speech on the King assassination

Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, speaking before a mostly African American crowd at 17th and Broadway streets, announces the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and appeals for calm. The impromptu speech attracts national attention when the city remains free of major civil unrest. 

Read More »
Pictured: Robert F. Kennedy Announcing Martin Luther King's Death. Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
May 31, 1968
Indianapolis

U.S. Justice Department sues Indianapolis Public Schools for racial discrimination

By August 1971, when the trial concludes, U.S. District Judge S. Hugh Dillin finds IPS guilty of de jure (by law) segregation and orders it to accelerate desegregation efforts. He later imposes a remedy of busing to achieve integration.

Read More »
1969
Indianapolis

Indianapolis Business Development Foundation incorporated

The foundation provides funding to help minority businesses get started or expand. Within its first 10 years, the organization provides over $1 million in direct loans and helps generate funds from other sources in excess of $5 million.

Read More »
Pictured: Indianapolis Business Development Foundation Dinner, 1984 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1969
Indianapolis

Barbara Boyd becomes first African American woman television journalist

Boyd begins work as a reporter at WFBM (later WRTV) and becomes a household name and role model for African Americans and women. She is the first Black woman to serve as a TV news anchor and remains with the station until 1994.

Read More »
Pictured: Barbara Boyd, 1987 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1969
Indianapolis

Black police officers form “The Guardians”

Racial issues within the Indianapolis Police Department lead African American officers to form the group. It strives to create a better relationship between police and the community, particularly regarding race, and to address overt acts of discrimination within the police department.

Read More »
Pictured: Richard Crenshaw, an organizer for the Guardians, ca. 1970s Credit: Indianapolis Marion County Public Library View Source
Jun 1, 1969
Indianapolis

Black Manifesto calls for congregations to pay reparations

Members of the Black Radical Action project, led by Charles “Snookie” Hendricks, interrupt services at local churches to read the “Black Manifesto.” The Manifesto, which originates in Detroit during the National Black Development Conference, calls for congregations to pay reparations to African Americans as compensation for their ancestors’ enslavement. 

Read More »
Pictured: Charles "Snookie" Hendricks, 1983 Credit: Indianapolis News View Source
Jun 12, 1969
Indianapolis

Civil unrest on Indiana Avenue

The continued displacement and poor police treatment of Black families in Indianapolis results in two days of civil unrest at Lockefield Gardens. The event results in the arrest of over 100 demonstrators, multiple injuries, and damage to nearby businesses. It also brings publicity to issues of local police brutality in Black neighborhoods.

Read More »
Pictured: Lockefield Big 10 Market was just one location that was looted and burned during the unrest, 1969 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1970
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 744,624, with 134,320 African Americans. The large increase in population overall and among various groups is the result of city-county government under Unigov.

1970
Indianapolis

Marion County and Indianapolis consolidate under Unigov

On March 13, 1969, Governor Whitcomb signs the legislation to unify Marion County and the city of Indianapolis. It becomes effective on January 1, 1970.

Read More »
1970
Indianapolis

Joseph T. Taylor becomes the first Black dean at IUPUI

Taylor, who had joined the Indianapolis Regional Campus as an associate professor of sociology in 1962, is named dean of the newly established School of Liberal Arts. He remains dean until 1978. Later, the school establishes an annual symposium in his honor.

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Pictured: Joseph T. Taylor, 1967 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1970
Indianapolis

Indianapolis Public Schools begin voluntary busing

Busing begins in Indianapolis school districts in anticipation of federal court order ending segregation. The busing is sporadic and continues for the next two years.

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1971
Indianapolis

Whitcomb v. Chavis becomes landmark U.S. Supreme Court voting rights decision

The case considers whether Marion County state legislative districts were drawn improperly to minimize the voting strength of Black residents. The Supreme Court rules that an intent to discriminate cannot be proven and, therefore, the redistricting is not unconstitutional.

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Apr 20, 1971
National

U.S. Supreme Court upholds busing

The U.S. Supreme Court allows busing for the purposes of desegregation, leading to its widespread implementation. Federal district judge S. Hugh Dillin adopts this remedy for Indianapolis in 1973.

Read More »
Pictured: Black and white children on a school bus, riding from the suburbs to an inner city school in Charlotte, North Caroline, 1973 Credit: Warren K. Leffler, U.S. News & World Report Magazine, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons View Source
Jun 19, 1971
Indianapolis

Indiana Black Expo begins

The annual exposition holds its inaugural event, a one-day gathering, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. It aims to highlight the talents and achievements of African Americans and identify and address their challenges.

Read More »
Pictured: Crowd scene at the 1971 Indiana Black Expo. Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Aug 18, 1971
Indianapolis

Indianapolis Public Schools found guilty of segregation

U.S. District Judge S. Hugh Dillin finds IPS guilty of segregation and orders it to accelerate desegregation of its staff and some schools.

Read More »
1972
Indianapolis

Janet Langhart becomes first African American to host a daily TV show in Indianapolis

Langhart goes on the air as host of WISH-TV’s Indy Today. When she leaves to join a station in Boston, Alpha Blackburn, a prominent African American Indianapolis entrepreneur and personality, continues the broadcast.

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Dec 26, 1972
Indianapolis

First observance of Kwanzaa in Indianapolis

Six years after the celebration was founded in Los Angeles, Indianapolis poet Mari Evans and others hold the first seven-day Indianapolis Kwanzaa celebration at IUPUI’s Cavanaugh Hall. The celebration, organized by the Indianapolis Kwanzaa Committee, later moves to the Indianapolis Public Library.

Pictured: Fall Creek YMCA Kwanzaa celebration, 1983 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jul 31, 1973
Indianapolis

U.S. District Court orders busing to desegregate Indianapolis Public Schools

To speed integration of Indianapolis Public Schools, Judge Hugh Dillin of the United States District Court orders a busing system to transfer African American students within the IPS district to surrounding suburban schools.

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Pictured: Sam Jones (left), of the Indianapolis Urban League, explains his position on the busing of Black students. Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Aug 2, 1975
Indianapolis

“Neighborhood of Saturday Nights Picnic” begins

Even after being displaced by the interstate, former Black and Jewish residents of the Babe Denny neighborhood launch what becomes an annual community picnic, held each August in Babe Denny Park.

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Pictured: Participants in the community picnic in 2019 pose with a photo of themselves at the inaugural picnic in 1975. Credit: Indianapolis Recorder View Source
Nov 15, 1975
Indianapolis

Reverend Frank Alexander named pastor of College Avenue Baptist Church

College Avenue Baptist Church (now Oasis of Hope Baptist Church) welcomes Reverend Frank Alexander as its pastor. He uses his role to engage and foster community in Martindale Brightwood, with the church building apartments and engaging in economic development. 

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Pictured: Pastor Frank Alexander working with children in Liberia as part of the nonprofit he started, Oasis Mission for Orphans, Disabled and Unaccompanied Children, ca. 1990s Credit: Indianapolis Recorder View Source
1976
Indianapolis

Oscar Charleston posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame

Known as “The Hoosier Comet,” the Indianapolis native plays for the Indianapolis ABCs of the Negro National League for several years, starting in 1916. He later manages the famous show team, the Indianapolis Clowns, for their 1954 season.

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Pictured: Oscar Charleston was a professional baseball player and manager of the Negro Leagues from 1915 through the 1950s. Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1976
Indianapolis

Mayor Hudnut pushes for minority hiring in police department

Hudnut publicly recognizes the disparity between the proportion of Black officers and Black citizens. He promises to close the gap through strong recruitment efforts.

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Oct 15, 1976
Indianapolis

I-65 and I-70 within the I- 465 loop completed

The interstate construction displaces at least 17,000 residents—primarily Black and low-income—and leaves widespread resentment at the inequitable burden placed on these communities.

Pictured: Indianapolis skyline and interstate system, ca. 1975 Credit: Bass Photo Co. Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1977
Indianapolis

Martin Center opens

Martin Center, an educational institution, opens under the leadership of Father Boniface Hardin, O.S.B. Reflecting increased enrollment and diversity of degree programs, it becomes Martin University in 1990.

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Pictured: Father Boniface Hardin, founder and president of Martin Center College, inspects an art selection which is part of the exhibition and auction hosted by the college. Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1977
Indianapolis

Center for Leadership Development established

The center is established to identify and address the obstacles facing Indianapolis’ Black students. S. Henry Bundles, a prominent Black leader, becomes its first president.

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1977
Indianapolis

Amos C. Brown begins his Mornings with the Mayor broadcast on WTLC

The radio show features conversations between Brown and Mayor Bill Hudnut. The program continues under the Stephen Goldsmith administration, lasting until 1993. Brown becomes one of the best-known media voices in the Black community.

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1978
Indianapolis

First Black-owned car dealership

Payton Wells Chevrolet opens as the first minority-owned dealership selling new vehicles at 1510 North Meridian Street in downtown Indianapolis.

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Pictured: Payton Wells, n.d. Credit: IndyStar View Source
Jan 23, 1978
Indianapolis

Joe Slash becomes the first Black deputy mayor of Indianapolis

Mayor Bill Hudnut selects Slash, a certified public accountant who is new to politics, because of his financial acumen. He later leads the Indianapolis Urban League (2002-2014).

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1979
Indianapolis

Madam Walker Urban Life Center created

Created as a nonprofit organization, the Madam Walker Urban Life Center, Inc., begins work to save the historic Walker Building from deterioration and demolition.

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Pictured: An artist's redition of the interior for the Madame Walker Urban Life Center. Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1980
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 700,807, with 152,626 African Americans.

1980
Indianapolis

Tanselle-Adams Commission appointed for Michael Smith shooting

Following the police-action shooting of local Black man Michael Smith, Mayor Hudnut selects Donald Tanselle and Lehman Adams to investigate how to better the relationship between the police and community. New police training procedures are enacted as a result.

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1980
Indianapolis

Mays Chemical Company established

Wiliam G. Mays, a chemist, founds the company that becomes one of the largest chemical distributors and the 16th-largest African American industrial service in the country. He purchases the Indianapolis Recorder in 1990 and, with Bill Shirk, launches WAV-TV in 1992, the first over-the-air television station to have Black ownership in the city.

Pictured: William G. Mays (left), 1984 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 4, 1980
Indianapolis

Riviera Club charged in racial discrimination lawsuit

Rev. Robert Bates files a discrimination suit against the club in 1974 after two Black men are denied membership. The suit is finally heard in federal court in 1980, and as a result, the club agrees to no longer consider race in its membership policies. It also allows Rev. Bates to choose 6 members of its board.

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1981
Indianapolis

Dr. Frank Perry Lloyd becomes first African American president of Methodist Hospital

Perry becomes president after being one of the first African American doctors on the Methodist Hospital medical staff and its first Black director of medical research (1963). He lays the groundwork for the institution to become a leading center for teaching and research as well as for patient care.

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Pictured: Frank Perry Lloyd, ca. 1960s Credit: Warrick L. Barrett via Find A Grave View Source
1981
Indianapolis

Desegregation case settled, busing begins

At the start of the new school year, around 7,000 Black students are bused to Perry, Wayne, Franklin, Decatur, Lawrence, and Warren townships. Pike and Washington already have significant number of Black students enrolled.

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Pictured: Former IPS students arrive at Skiles Test Elementary in Lawrence Township, 1981 Credit: Tim Halcomb, Indianapolis News View Source
1982
Indianapolis

Freetown Village planning begins

Freetown Village, conceptualized by Ophelia Wellington out of her desire to teach African American history. The organization begins as a live-action exhibit in the Indiana State Museum, portraying Black history. Freetown actors later travel the Midwest and recreate Indiana’s post-Civil War Black settlements.

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Pictured: Freetown village costumed interpreter, ca. 1990s Credit: Freetown Village View Source
1982
Indianapolis

100 Black Women of Indianapolis, Inc. founded

Jatrice Martel Gaiter, an attorney, spearheads the creation of the Indianapolis chapter of 100 Black Women. Designed to respond to the needs of Black women in the community, the group focuses on areas of economic development, political action, arts and culture, and professional development.

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Feb 28, 1983
Indianapolis

Lockefield Garden Apartments listed on the National Register of Historic Places

With only 7 original buildings remaining, the apartments are designated as an official Indianapolis historic district.

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Pictured: Lockefield Gardens apartments, ca. 1980s Credit: City of Indianpolis, Department of Metropolitan Development, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Apr 30, 1983
Indianapolis

Students from Charity Dye Elementary School 27 win national chess prize

The team, comprised of all Black students with only three years of chess experience, wins the U.S. Elementary School Chess Championship, held in Tennessee. The team goes on to win matches in Japan.

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Pictured: School 27 Chess Team, 1983 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1984
Indianapolis

100 Black Men of Indianapolis established

Frank Perry Lloyd and other Black community leaders found the group which provides programs that focus on mentoring, education, and leadership development for the city’s Black youth.

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Pictured: IPS students at a basketball game, participating in a program developed by 100 Black Men, 1992 Credit: Susan Plageman, IndyStar View Source
Sep 21, 1984
Indianapolis

Dialogue Today group organized

In response to a 1984 conflict between the Black and Jewish communities, 50 Black women and 50 Jewish women organize with the mission to better understand one another and to deal with common problems together. The group meets several times a year and holds dinners, book-discussion groups, and visits to each other’s churches and synagogues.

Pictured: Dialogue Today founders, Theresa Guise, Diane Meye Simon, and Carole Stein, ca. 1980s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 13, 1984
Indianapolis

First Circle City Classic

An estimated 40,000 spectators see Mississippi Valley State University defeat Grambling University, 48-36, in what becomes an annual weekend celebration of African American achievements.

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Pictured: Members of the Mississippi Valley State University team raise the Circle City Classic trophy, 1984 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 5, 1986
Indianapolis

Light of the World Christian Church launches a television ministry

Reverend T. Garrot launches Heaven on Earth Ministries, a television ministry program. By its third year on air, the televised sermons were accessible on the Black Entertainment Network, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the Armed Forces Network. 

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Pictured: Heaven on Earth Ministries advertisement, 1986 Credit: IndyStar View Source
Jan 19, 1987
Indianapolis

First African American fire chief

After 32 years working as a firefighter, Joseph Kimbrew becomes the first Black fire chief in Indianapolis, named to lead Station 1. He holds this position until 1992.

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Pictured: Indianapolis Fire Chief Joseph D. Kimbrew is sworn in by Mayor William H. Hudnut, III, 1987 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 12, 1987
Indianapolis

Indiana Avenue Historic District placed on National Register

Indiana Avenue is recognized as a historic district for its significance as the city’s primary area for commercial activity that served the Black community of Indianapolis.

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Pictured: Indiana Avenue looking North from New York Street, 1942 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 22, 1987
State

Indiana Pacers draft Reggie Miller

Indiana Pacers president, Donnie Walsh, directs the team to draft Reggie Miller out of UCLA. Miller becomes the All-Star face of the franchise during a Hall of Fame career.

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Pictured: Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller (31) against the Boston Celtics at Market Square Arena. Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports View Source
Sep 24, 1987
Indianapolis

Michael Taylor shooting

Michael Taylor is shot and killed while in police custody. Multiple investigations determine Taylor’s death as self-inflicted due to the negligence of the arresting police officers. Taylor’s death puts pressure on Indianapolis police after a decade of high incidences of shootings of Black victims by police.  

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Pictured: Portrait of Michael Taylor who was killed while in the hands of the Indianapolis Police Department on September 24, 1987. Credit: Nur-Allah Islamic Center View Source
1988
Indianapolis

Eunice Trotter purchases controlling interest in the Indianapolis Recorder

Career journalist, Eunice Trotter ends the Stewart family’s long run as owner and publisher of the Indianapolis Recorder (1895-1988), which is the nation’s 4th-oldest surviving African American newspaper. She is one of only a few African American women to publish a newspaper.

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1988
Indianapolis

First Meet the Artists exhibition

Indianapolis Public Library artist-in-residence Anthony Radford organizes the showcase that highlights the works of the city’s top African American visual artists. It becomes an annual event.

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Jul 31, 1989
Indianapolis

Indianapolis Campaign for Healthy Babies begins

Mayor Hudnut and the City-County Council establish the campaign as a public-private partnership to implement the recommendations of the Marion County Task Force on Infant Mortality aimed at lowering the city’s high Black infant mortality rate. 

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1990
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 731,327, with 165,570 African Americans.

1991
Indianapolis

Kay and Harry Alford establish the Hoosier Minority Chamber of Commerce

The Alfords create the organization to represent the economic interests of the African American community. It becomes a national organization on May 23, 1993, and is renamed the National Black Chamber of Commerce. The organization moves to Washington, D. C. in 1994.

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1991
Indianapolis

Complaint filed against Highland Club for discrimination

Murvin Enders, a plant manager at Chrysler Corporation, files a complaint with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission after having been denied membership in the Highland Club twice. The club begins accepting Black members the following year.

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Pictured: Murvin Enders, 2008 Credit: Indiana State Library View Source
Jan 15, 1991
Indianapolis

First Black man voted superintendent of IPS

Dr. Shirl Gilbert is appointed superintendent of IPS after having served as deputy superintendent. His chief priority is helping socially and economically disadvantaged students.

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Pictured: Dr. Shirl E. Gilbery, 1991 Credit: Indianapolis Marion County Public Library View Source
May 26, 1991
Indianapolis

Willy T. Ribbs becomes the first African American to race in the Indianapolis 500

Ribb’s participation in the Indianapolis 500 marks the end of the longest-standing color barrier in professional sports.

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Pictured: IndyCar Series former driver Willy T. Ribbs during the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2018 Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports View Source
1992
Indianapolis

James D. Toler becomes chief of the Indianapolis Police Department

The first African American to hold the position of police chief pushes for stronger anti-drug programs and better hiring processes. 

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1992
Indianapolis

Ransom Place listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Following its placement on the National Register, the City of Indianapolis makes the historic African American near west side neighborhood one of its official historic districts.

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Jan 27, 1992
Indianapolis

Michael G. Tyson trial begins

Tyson is accused of raping a Miss Black America pageant contestant during his visit to Indiana Black Expo in July 1991. The internationally publicized trial of the heavyweight boxing champion lasts 13 days. The jury returns a verdict of guilty, and Tyson is sentenced to six years in prison followed by four years’ probation.

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Pictured: Mike Tyson arrives for court Wednesday morning, January 19, 1992, at the City-County Building in Indianapolis. Credit: The Indianapolis Star-USA TODAY NETWORK View Source
Nov 8, 1992
Indianapolis

Darryl Pinckney wins award for High Cotton

In his thinly veiled autobiographical novel, Indianapolis native and acclaimed critic Pinkney writes about a young, middle-class Black man growing up in the northern suburbs of Indianapolis in the 1960s. It wins the prestigious Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.

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Pictured: Cover of Darryl Pinckney's book, High Cotton Credit: Fair Use
1993
Indianapolis

WRTV airs series Blacks and Whites: Can we all get along?

The series captures the experiences of both Black and white female Butler students shopping in Indianapolis malls. They find that white students are greeted promptly and treated courteously, while Black students are not greeted at all and are not helped unless they ask for it.

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1993
Indianapolis

William G. “Bill” Mays becomes the first African American chairman of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce

Widely recognized as Indiana’s most successful Black businessman, Mays, owner of Mays Chemical, the Indianapolis Recorder, and WAV-TV, serves as Chamber of Commerce chairman from 1993-1994. He also is the first African American appointed to the Indiana Hoosier Lottery Commission and the first to chair the United Way of Central Indiana campaign.

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Pictured: William G. Mays, n.d. Credit: IndyStar View Source
Aug 23, 1993
Indianapolis

Select Schools program begins

The IPS Board and U.S. District Court Judge S. Hugh Dillin approve the Select Schools reform plan. The goal of the plan, which allows parents to select the school their child attends, is to engage parents and improve academic achievement by fostering competition for students among IPS schools.   

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Oct 14, 1993
Indianapolis

Celebration of Hope

The Church Federation organizes a Celebration of Hope service, bringing together different faith communities to counter a Ku Klux Klan rally. The service becomes an annual event intended to better race relations. 

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Pictured: Fourth Annual Celebration of Hope, 1997 Credit: IndyStar View Source
1994
Indianapolis

Catholic Archdiocese closes St. Bridget parish

St. Bridget closes as membership declines with the movement of the Black population away from the near west side. The church reappears as an independent Catholic church, holding services at St. Phillips Episcopal Church.

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May 14, 1994
Indianapolis

Groundbreaking for Kennedy-King Landmark for Peace memorial

President Bill Clinton and the families of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy attend the event for the memorial that commemorates the spot where RFK made his famous speech upon hearing the news of MLK’s assassination, April 4, 1968.

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1995
State

IU School of Medicine launches program to attract Black students

As the first Black assistant dean of the school (1994-1999), Dr. George Rawls launches the Medical Science program to increase African American representation among practicing medical practitioners. The graduate program leads to a Master of Science degree.

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1995
Indianapolis

Metropolitan Youth Orchestra incorporates

Incorporation of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra formalizes the program that Betty Perry initiated to remedy the lack of classical music training for African American youth.

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Pictured: Betty Perry, director of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, chatting with Kevin Randolph, a former member, 2006 Credit: Robert Scheer / USA TODAY NETWORK View Source
Jun 5, 1995
National

Baby Face Edmonds wins his first two Grammy Awards

Indianapolis native Kenneth Brian Edmonds wins two Grammy Awards, one for his R&B Song “I’ll Make Love to You” and the other for Male R&B Vocal Performance in “When Can I See You.” 

Pictured: Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, 2013 Credit: Angela George, via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1997
Indianapolis

Julia Carson becomes first African American and first woman to represent Indianapolis in Congress

A protégé of Democratic congressman Andy Jacobs, Carson begins her first term representing the 7th Indiana Congressional District. She spends her six terms in office focused on issues of concern to the lives of Indianapolis’ working class.

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Pictured: Julia Carson and Muhammad Ali pose for picture on October 31, 1996 during his support for Julia Carson's campaign for the U.S. Congress. Credit: Nur-Allah Islamic Center View Source
Jun 22, 1998
Indianapolis

Judge Dillin ends school busing

Indianapolis Public Schools begin the multi-year phase out of forced busing in fall 1999. The practice officially ends with the graduating class in the 2015-2016 school year.

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2000
Indianapolis

Population

City Population totals 781,707, with 199,382 African Americans.

2001
Indianapolis

The Sam H. Jones Center opens

The center is the new permanent home of the Indianapolis Urban League and is named for Jones, the organization’s influential first president (1966-2002).

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2002
Indianapolis

Bill Crawford becomes the first Black legislator to chair Indiana House Ways and Means Committee

Crawford authors three biennial state budgets where he strives to ensure equitable state spending that does not overlook the underserved citizens of Indiana, not just those in his local Indianapolis district.

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Nov 5, 2002
State

Frank Anderson becomes the first elected African American sheriff

Anderson, an Indianapolis native who attended Shortridge High School, served as U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Indiana for many years before becoming sheriff. A Democrat, he is the first African American elected to the post in Marion County, as well as the first in Indiana.

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Pictured: Frank Anderson campaigning for Marion County Sheriff on IUPUI campus, 2002 Credit: University Library, IUPUI View Source
Sep 30, 2003
Indianapolis

Historic Fall Creek YMCA closes

Built as a replacement for the Senate Avenue YMCA in 1959, the Fall Creek YMCA closes due to financial trouble and controversies concerning racial discrimination. It had served the African American community for several decades

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Pictured: Sustaining Membership members of the Fall Creek Parkway YMCA, 1984 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
2004
Indianapolis

Rozelle Boyd becomes first Black City-County Council president

First elected to the City Council (pre-Unigov) in 1965, Boyd serves until 2007, the last three years as the council’s president. He is the longest-serving City-County councilor at the time of his departure.  

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Pictured: Indianapolis City-County Council Democratic leader Rozelle Boyd, 2003 Credit: Charlie Nye / USA TODAY NETWORK View Source
2004
Indianapolis

African American Coalition of Indianapolis founded

The non-partisan coalition includes more than 20 African American civic, social, professional, service, and community organizations. It aims to educate and engage Blacks in the local, state, and national political process.

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Nov 8, 2004
Indianapolis

Crispus Attucks graduate makes Metropolitan Opera debut

At the age of 40, Angela Brown, who finds her niche in classical music while in college, makes her Metropolitan Opera debut in the title role of Verdi’s Aida. 

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Pictured: Angela Brown sang at Yuletide Celebration, showcasing the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, at Hilbert Circle Theater in 2018. Credit: Robert Scheer/IndyStar View Source
2006
Indianapolis

Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club of Indianapolis forms

Named after the historic U.S. Army Black cavalry, the chapter becomes one of the largest in the national organization. It promotes the sport of motorcycling in a positive way by supporting community and charitable causes.

2008
Indianapolis

IUPUI names building for Joseph T. Taylor

The university renames the former University Library and new home of University College for Taylor, an African American who was the first dean of the IUPUI School of Liberal Arts. The local chapter of the Association for the Study of American Life also bears his name.

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Apr 28, 2008
Indianpolis

Crawford v. Marion Co. Election Board ruling

The Democratic Party and groups representing minority and elderly citizens argue that the 2005 Indiana law requiring all in-person voters to show a government-issued photo id constitutes an undue burden on the right to vote. The U.S. Supreme Court rules to uphold the law.

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2010
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 820,445, with 225,355 African Americans.

Jun 15, 2010
State

Tanya Walton Pratt becomes the first African American federal judge in Indiana

Tonya Walton Pratt is appointed to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana. She becomes the first African American chief judge of the court in 2021.

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Pictured: Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, 2010 Credit: Charlie Nye, IndyStar View Source
2012
Indianapolis

Mel Daniels inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Daniels, who played for the Indiana Pacers for six seasons (1968-1974), becomes the first member of the team inducted into the national basketball Hall of Fame.

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Pictured: ABA legends congratulate Mel Daniels, center, as he is honored for entering the Naismith Hall of Fame, 2012 Credit: Kelly Wilkinson, IndyStar View Source
Aug 8, 2014
National

Death of Michael Brown

An 18-year-old African American, Michael Brown, is fatally shot by Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson. Along with other instances of Black men shot by police across the United States, the incident sparks weeks of protests all over the country, including Indianapolis.

Pictured: Plaque of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on sidewalk where shooting incident occurred. Credit: LittleT889 via Wikimedia Commons View Source
Dec 31, 2014
Indianapolis

Indy10 Black Lives Matter is founded

A group of 10 Indianapolis residents found Indy10 Black Lives Matter after traveling to Ferguson, Missouri, to protest the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police.

Pictured: Leah Derray (at right), Kyra Jay (left), and Erika Haskins are all leaders of Indy10 Black Lives Matter. Credit: Robert Scheer/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC View Source
2015
Indianapolis

Mays Institute on Diverse Philanthropy founded

Established at the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy, the Mays Institute on Diverse Philanthropy honors the life and impact of the life of businessman Bill Mays, along with his wife Dr. Rose Mays. The institute works to strengthen issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the philanthropic sector.

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Pictured: Coretta McAllister (right) with Susan Batten, CEO and President of Association of Black Foundation Executives and one of the speakers featured in the Diverse Speaker Series, 2019 Credit: Lilly Family School of Philanthropy View Source
Jan 31, 2015
Indianapolis

Indianapolis Black Chamber of Commerce organizes

The Black Chamber of Commerce serves as an information resource for Black-owned businesses. It aims to bolster economic development in the African American community.

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Apr 21, 2016
Indianapolis

Bethel AME sells its historic building

SUN Development, a management corporation, purchases the 180-year-old church property of Bethel AME, the oldest African American religious congregation in Indianapolis. It turns the location at 414 W. Vermont Street into a hotel while preserving much of the church’s facade. Bethel moves to a new building in Pike Township. 

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Pictured: The sanctuary of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church is shown in 2016, the year it was sold. Credit: Jenna Watson/IndyStar, Indianapolis Star via Imagn Content Services, LLC View Source
Apr 29, 2017
Indianapolis

Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows first Black woman elected an Episcopal diocesan bishop

Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows is the 11th bishop diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis. Prior to this appointment, she worked in various roles for the Episcopal Church throughout the country. 

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Pictured: Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, 2017 Credit: Kelly Wilkinson, IndyStar View Source
Aug 3, 2017
National

Jerome Michael Adams becomes surgeon general of the United States

Adams previously served as the Indiana state health commissioner and associate professor of anesthesia at Eskenazi Health. His focus as surgeon general is on addressing the opioid crisis and mental health issues.

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Pictured: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, 2019 Credit: United States Department of Health and Human Services, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons View Source
Sep 18, 2017
Indianapolis

WNBA Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings retires

Catchings plays for the Fever 15 seasons before retiring from the WNBA basketball court. She is an 11-time WNBA All-Star, 12-time All-WNBA Defensive Player, 5-time league championship MVP, and 4-time Olympic gold medalist. She is elected to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020.

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Pictured: WNBA former player Tamika Catchings attends the Gatorade National Athlete of the Year Awards at the Ritz-Carlton, 2017 Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports View Source
Oct 21, 2017
Indianapolis

Indianapolis Public Central Library Opens Center for Black Literature And Culture (CBLC)

The center, located in the library’s West Reading Room, features a collection of books, interactive displays, and research tools to aid in exploring the Black experience in Indianapolis.

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Pictured: Outside the Center for Black Literature and Culture inside the Central Library, 2022 Credit: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK View Source
Apr 4, 2018
Indianapolis

Landmark for Peace memorial designated the Kennedy-King National Commemorative Site

The Landmark for Peace memorial, site of Robert Kennedy Jr.’s famous 1968 speech upon the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., is designated the Kennedy-King National Commemorative Site.

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Apr 8, 2019
Indianapolis

DuJuan McCoy becomes first African American sole owner of Indianapolis television stations

McCoy, an Indianapolis native, purchases WISH-TV and WNDY-TV for $42.5 million and forms Circle City Broadcasting.

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Jun 21, 2019
Indianapolis

IPS appoints first Black woman superintendent

Aleesia Johnson becomes the first Black woman to be named superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools. Having worked as a teacher, school leader, and administrator in both public charter and traditional district schools, she brings over 16 years of experience to Indiana’s largest school district. 

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Pictured: Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson, 2020 Credit: Jenna Watson/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC View Source
2020
Indianapolis

Population

The city population totals 887,642, with 253,865 African Americans.

Feb 13, 2020
Indianapolis

Newfields controversy over job description

Artists and employees call for change following the release of a job description that mentions maintaining the “traditional, core, white audience.” The museum is also criticized for excluding its majority Black neighborhood, for creating a discriminatory culture, and for lack of support to Black artists.

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May 30, 2020
National

Protests erupt in response to the death of George Floyd

Floyd’s murder by an arresting police officer in Milwaukee, WI, results in a series of protests in Indianapolis against racial discrimination. During the first three days, two people are killed, businesses are looted and vandalized, and officers use tear gas, pepper balls, and batons on hundreds of people.

Pictured: Protesters walk the streets during protests downtown, May 2020 Credit: Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC View Source
Jun 6, 2020
Indianapolis

Indy’s largest demonstration against racial inequality and police brutality

An evening protest, organized by Black Women in Charge, becomes the city’s largest demonstration against racial inequality and police brutality in at least 30 years, with over 4,000 protestors in attendance.

Pictured: Thousands participate in a sit-in rally organized by Black Women in Charge at the Indiana Statehouse, 2020 Credit: Jenna Watson/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC View Source
Jun 8, 2020
Indianapolis

Indianapolis City-County Council declares racism a public health crisis

After weeks of protests against racial discrimination, the Indianapolis City-County Council votes unanimously to pass a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis in Indianapolis.

Jun 18, 2020
Indianapolis

ACLU files lawsuit against City of Indianapolis

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana calls for an end to the use of tear gas, pepper balls, and other similar crowd control methods against protestors. It files a lawsuit against the City of Indianapolis over the use of these methods during the protests.

Pictured: IMPD using gas at Black Lives Matter protests in downtown Indianapolis, 2020 Credit: Michelle Pemberton/RedRocketPhoto via Imagn Content Services, LLC View Source
Jun 19, 2020
Indianapolis

Juneteenth

Governor Holcomb and Mayor Hogsett signed proclamations declaring June 19 as Juneteenth in the state and city. Juneteenth celebrations include the “Juneteenth Freedom Festival,” “Black Out for Black Lives,” a march for peace ending at an event at Martin Luther King Memorial Park, an Indy Lawyers for Black Lives protest, and the virtual “Juneteenth Celebration” hosted by the Indianapolis Recorder and other community groups.

Pictured: 2020 Indiana proclamation declaring June 19 as Juneteenth Credit: State of Indiana View Source
Jun 25, 2020
Indianapolis

IPS approves new racial equity measures

The Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners approves the Racial Equity Mindset, Commitment & Action policy and the Black Lives Matter resolution. Both are aimed at making changes to policies, practices, and attitudes that perpetuate inequity, racism, and biases.

Pictured: Racial Equity Mindset, Commitment, & Action plan, adopted June 25, 2020 Credit: Indianapolis Public Schools View Source
Jun 30, 2020
Indianapolis

Murals for Racial Justice Project begins

The Murals for Racial Justice Project, an initiative of the Arts Council of Indianapolis,  commissions 22 Black artists to create 24 temporary murals on boarded-up storefronts in downtown Indianapolis. The works are later recreated on banners displayed at the Central Library and available for educational use by the community.

Pictured: Murals adorn many downtown business, like these at the Symphony Centre on Washington Street, in downtown Indianapolis, 2020 Credit: Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC View Source
Jul 1, 2020
Indianapolis

Black-owned businesses are boosted

 

The Downtown Indy Rebuilding and Recovery Committee is formed to help Indianapolis recover from the coronavirus recession and to increase black-owned businesses around the Mile Square. Indy Black Businesses Matter is a 2-part campaign to spotlight Black-owned businesses and increase diversity in the workforce.

Pictured: #blackbusinessesmatter Credit: Indy Black Businesses Matter View Source
Jul 2, 2020
Indianapolis

A Conversation on Race

A virtual town hall, A Conversation on Race: Connecting Central Indiana, is put together through the efforts of Indy10 BLM, RTV6, and Radio One. 

Jul 9, 2020
Indianapolis

IMPD to be equipped with body cams

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, IMPD signs a multi-million dollar contract to equip over 1,000 officers with body cameras. This process will take place over the next 5 1/2 years. In addition, the City of Indianapolis plans to hire civilians to manage and review the footage captured from the body cameras.

Pictured: Police officer is shown wearing a body cam in front of a rack of charging body cameras, 2019 Credit: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar, Indianapolis Star via Imagn Content Services, LLC View Source
Jul 13, 2020
Indianapolis