BY DOUGLAS WISSING,
ART BY SHANNON ZAHNLE
(Additional photos can be found at the bottom of this page.)
A different color of skin gives you a different perspective on Indiana’s past 200 years. In this bicentennial year, it’s important to incorporate and honor that perspective and the extraordinary contributions that African-Americans have made to Indiana in politics, law, education, entertainment, sports, business, and the everyday work of serving community and family — often achieved only by overcoming vicious and systemic racism.
Indiana’s preeminent historian James H. Madison, an Indiana University professor emeritus, says revealing the oft-veiled stories of African-Americans is complicated. “It’s a question of ambiguity; it’s a question of difficulty. Even in the 21st century, race is still a difficult subject,” he says. “The stories are there, but are unheard.” Yet placing African-Americans into the mosaic of Indiana history is essential to fully understanding Hoosier culture today. “Once you crank those stories into the picture, the whole story changes,” says Madison.
Here is an overview of some of those stories and their impact. —the editor