Listen to Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM. You also can listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast or you can join our listening group at Bookmama's in Irvington to listen to, and discuss, the Saturday show. We invite you to visit our website!
Nov. 13 show
Slave trial in 1820s Indiana
In 1821, a young African-American woman in Vincennes made history. A lawyer for Mary Bateman Clark filed a lawsuit seeking her release from an "indentured servitude" contract with one of the most prominent men in the new state of Indiana. The contract required Mary to cook, clean and sew for Gen. Washington Johnston and his family for 20 years. Her only pay was housing, food and clothing.
The case, which made its way to the Indiana Supreme Court, involved determining whether such "indentured servitude" contracts violated the state's constitution as a form of slavery. Nearly 200 years ago this month - on Nov. 16, 1821 - the Supreme Court ruled in Mary's favor and ordered her employer to release her.
To share insights about the social history of the era and the landmark case, Nelson will be joined in studio by one of Mary's descendants, Indianapolis resident Eunice Trotter. Eunice, a veteran journalist, and her sister Ethel McCane are using their research about their ancestor to do "living history performances" for schools and civic groups across the state. They can be contacted through their website at marybatemanclark.org.
Eunice and Ethel crusaded for a historic marker in honor of Mary Bateman Clark; it was dedicated at the Knox County Courthouse in 2009. The sisters are Mary Bateman Clark's great-great-great granddaughters.
According to their research, many white residents of Vincennes and other early Indiana communities worried about the presence of free African-Americans, fearing they would incite indentured blacks.
Also in the 1820s, another young woman in Vincennes sued to obtain her freedom. Polly Strong had been enslaved by Col. Hyacinth LaSalle, a prominent Vincennes resident, before Indiana became a state in 1816. LaSalle challenged the new state constitution, unsuccessfully arguing that it could not be applied retroactively.
Re-enactments of the Polly Strong case are performed across Indiana under the direction of Corydon historic preservationist Maxine Brown. She was our guest on Hoosier History Live! two years ago for a show about her historic restoration of a segregated school in Corydon. The restored school, now known as the Leora Brown School, has been the setting for re-enactments of the court cases of Mary Bateman Clark and Polly Strong.
History Mystery question
Vincennes has the distinction of being Indiana's oldest city, as well as our territorial capital. But by 1830 another town in southern Indiana claimed the distinction of being the state's largest city. This city remained the state's biggest until about 1850, when it was eclipsed by the explosive growth of Indianapolis.
Name the southern Indiana town that was our largest city in the 1830s and '40s.
To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and the prize is two tickets to the
Children's Museum, courtesy of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association.
Chris Gahl of the ICVA says "All Aboard" and tells us to head to Jasper in southern Indiana to catch a ride on the Spirit of Jasper, an authentic fully restored vintage 1940s train. Coming up on Saturday, Nov. 20, you'll be able to buy a ticket and take an hourlong scenic ride from Jasper to French Lick.
Depart from the Jasper Train Depot at 5 p.m. on the Spirit of Jasper and wind through the Hoosier countryside, arriving at the 1907 Monon Depot in French Lick, home of the Indiana Railway Museum. Besides checking out the museum, you also can do a tasting at the French Lick Winery or have a spa treatment with the healing mineral waters of the West Baden Hotel.
At 11 p.m., the train heads back to Jasper, making this a scenic, historic and fun way to spend a Saturday. Make reservations online at www.spiritofjasper.com.
Your team on the Hoosier History Live! e-project,
Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Chris Gahl, Roadtripper
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant
Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support: The Fadely Trust, Indiana Historical Society, Lucas Oil, Indiana Authors Award and Story Inn.
Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities Council, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Chelsea Niccum and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorships, grants and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially.
Nov. 20 show
Kurt Vonnegut's relationship with Indy
His ancestors were among the earliest Indianapolis families, not to mention among the most prominent and influential. Literary lion Kurt Vonnegut Jr., though, had a complicated, continually evolving relationship with his hometown, although he rejoiced in the resurgence of downtown and emphasized he felt honored by the citywide "Year of Vonnegut" events under way when he passed away in 2007.
As Hoosier History Live! salutes what would have been his 88th birthday this month, we will explore his attitudes toward the Hoosier capital, where his grandfather and father, both architects, designed landmarks that remain with us today.
Nelson will be joined in studio by Julia Whitehead, founder of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, which is getting under way in the historic Emelie Building, 340 N. Senate Ave. Our guests also will include David Hoppe of Nuvo newsweekly, who befriended Vonnegut and escorted the author of Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) and other bestsellers during his return visits. A 1940 graduate of Shortridge High School, where he became an editor of the legendary Echo student newspaper, Vonnegut frequently referred to Indianapolis and his boyhood in books such as Palm Sunday (1981) and A Man Without a Country (2005).
The memorial library is being developed with the help of his daughters Edie and Nanny and his son Mark, who came to Indy shortly after his father's death to deliver what many experts think were his final written words: the speech he intended to give at Clowes Hall during the "Year of Vonnegut."
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