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July 24, 2021

African-American students during the late 1800s in Indiana

The Vincennes Colored School was built in 1877 and later renamed the Dunbar School in honor of African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. In 1933, the school was closed; it was demolished in 1958. Courtesy Knox County Public Library.

During the 1860s and '70s, "colored schools" (the term used during that era) began to open in Indiana. State laws required Black students to be educated in schools separate from their white counterparts.

Eunice TrotterIn 1886, the ceremony for the first graduate of Vincennes Colored High School in southwestern Indiana sparked a national controversy when whites boycotted the event, according to an article in the spring issue of Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, the magazine published by the Indiana Historical Society.

The article's author is acclaimed journalist, historian and researcher Eunice Trotter, who will be Nelson's guest to share insights about the ways Indiana cities handled the education of African American youth during the late 19th century.

During the 1870s, the first African-American student graduated from a predominantly white high school in Indianapolis. Mary Rann graduated from Indianapolis High School (later renamed Shortridge High School) in 1876. While much about her background and the milestone event is unknown, "it did open the way for others," Eunice writes.

The high school graduation 10 years later of Vincennes resident Grace Brewer was much more widely publicized because of the boycott of the citywide commencement by many white residents. They included pastors of local churches and business leaders as well as their teenage sons and daughters who were scheduled to graduate from Vincennes High School.

Although Grace Brewer became the first African American to graduate from a high school in Knox County, Eunice writes, "Many local Blacks [previously] had received individual education through schools tied to churches and went on to African-American colleges before Brewer's time."

This 1893 photo depicts the faculty of the Vincennes Colored School. The principal, W.H. Taylor, is believed to be standing in the upper left corner. Courtesy Knox County Public Library.In Vincennes and other Indiana cities, Black families had been complaining about the inadequate facilities and resources at the "colored schools." In her commencement address, Grace Brewer courageously described many of these challenges.

Also in 1886, a Black student in the Ohio River town of Vevay had completed her high school studies at a white school, but school board members "refused her the privilege of graduating with members of her class," according to Eunice's article. In Washington, Ind., objections from white students to including a Black classmate in their graduation exercises meant that two commencements were held.

Our guest Eunice Trotter has had a long and distinguished journalism career that has included serving as the first African-American editor at the Indianapolis Star (her jobs included assistant city editor and assistant business editor) and a stint as publisher of the Indianapolis Recorder. In 2017, Eunice was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.

Although she grew up in Indianapolis, Eunice has deep ancestral roots in Vincennes. In 1821, her ancestor Mary Bateman Clark and an attorney sued her employer to gain release from a long-term "indentured servitude" contract that courts ruled was, in actuality, slavery. Eunice coordinated efforts to get a historic marker at the Knox County Courthouse in recognition of Mary Bateman Clark's precedent-setting case. In 2010, she discussed the landmark case on a Hoosier History Live show about slave trials during the 1820s in Indiana.

 

Questions about our organizational structure?

Hoosier History Live is a small, independent production group and is run as a small business. We have had a lot of challenges over the years because we do things well and also ask for money to support our work. We have kept the ship afloat, although it has been difficult. We intend to hold on to our unique media voice. Furthermore, we believe we are the only live talk show with call-in about a state's history. 

Think of us as a small newspaper, except that we are multi-platform. In addition to a live radio show, we offer podcasts, social media, weekly newsletter and a detailed website with an extensive, searchable archive. And think of how many media outlets are shrinking or disappearing!

This means that we sell sponsorship, which includes logos and links, as well as voiced credits in the live show and in podcasts. For individual contributors, this means helping to support the performers, researchers and editors who work so hard each week. Financial support also helps to pay for our website, newsletter, computer storage, and other tech costs. Any of this can be discussed with our producer; she can be contacted at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org.

But our biggest asset is labor; the very bright and talented people who work on the project. All of our team has a passion for doing things well.

Copyright 2021

 

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Podcast Listening 101: The Basics

With voice searching on Google, it's incredibly easy to listen to Hoosier History Live podcasts.

We still broadcast live every Saturday on WICR 88.7, but more and more of our listeners are getting their Hoosier History Live shows by podcast - and it's easier than ever!

It's really this simple: If you have a smartphone, go to the Google search engine, click on the microphone button, and say "Hoosier History Live podcasts." Or if you don’t use the microphone, type in the words "Hoosier History Live podcasts" at the Google search bar.You'll immediately get a list of recent shows to choose from. Click on one of them - and let the listening begin!

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