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Hoosier History Live is an independently produced new media project about Indiana history, integrating podcasts, website www.HoosierHistoryLive.org, weekly enewsletter, and social media. Its original content comes initially from a live with call in weekly talk radio show hosted by author and historian Nelson Price. You can hear the show live Saturdays from noon to 1 pm ET at WICR 88.7 fm or stream the show live at the WICR HD1 app on your phone, or at our website.

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February 17, 2024

Black firefighters history in Indy

Way back in 1876, when firefighting equipment was transported by horse-drawn wagons, the first Black firefighters were hired by the Indianapolis Fire Department. The four African Americans included a firefighter who, in 1911, died in the line of duty.

Details about the story of the trail-blazing firefighters will be described on this show as Hoosier History Live salutes Black History Month. Our guest will be Corey Floyd, an IFD battalion chief and president of the Indianapolis Black Firefighters Association, which is in the midst of a major project.  A history museum about Black firefighters is being developed in a non-operational (shuttered) fire station on the north-eastside.

The museum in Old Station No. 31, 1201 E. 46th St., is expected to feature historic firefighting equipment, uniforms, helmets, plaques and videos. Battalion Chief Floyd, who grew up near Old Fire Station No. 31, says he hopes the museum will open in two or three months.

Black firefighters were needed early on in the department's history (IFD had been established in 1859) because many of their white colleagues did not want to venture into Black neighborhoods to put out fires, according to Battalion Chief Floyd. The first Black firefighters in the city were Thomas Smith, Robert Braxton, James Graves and Thomas Howard. In 1911, Thomas Smith (by then an IFD veteran known for his skills in handling horses) was killed when his vehicle was stuck on a cobblestone street by a streetcar. For several decades, IFD was segregated, with most African American firefighters serving on an all-Black crew at a station on Indiana Avenue.

Today, IFD is about 16.7 percent Black, according to Battalion Chief Floyd, who also is a recruitment officer. "Joining the department was one of the best things that ever happened to me", he told the Indianapolis Star last September for a story about the museum that's underway.

A milestone in the modern history of Black firefighters in the Hoosier capital occurred in 1987. Then-Mayor William Hudnut appointed Joseph Kimbrew (1929-2015) as the first Black fire chief in IFD history. An Indianapolis native, Kimbrew was a graduate of Attucks High School and an Army veteran who had joined the IFD in 1955. About one year after Kimbrew's death at age 86, Fire Station 1 at 1903 W. 10th Street was renamed in his honor.

The current IFD chief, Ernest Malone, is Black; he was appointed to the department's top post in 2014 by former Mayor Greg Ballard.

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New show podcasts are up!

January 27, 2024- Movie and TV directors who aren't household names now Click here for podcast.

For a complete list of show podcasts and show enewsletters, please go to ARCHIVES on our website.


Hoosier History Live looks back . .

. . . at the very lively Hoosier History Live party held in the summer of 2022 at the Vonnegut Museum and Library. Who came? Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Johnny Appleseed, Mayor Joe Hogsett, May Wright Sewall, and lots of former show guests, fans, and supporters.

And did you know that Indiana had a famous woman serial killer about a hundred years ago? Her name was Belle Gunness, and she advertised as a "lonely widow" looking for a husband to come work on her northern Indiana farm. At our party, guest Sally Spiers came portrayed as Belle Gunness looking for a husband! Although she did not secure one at our party. Hey, you can listen to the podcast of the Belle Gunness show we did with guest Jane Ammeson here: Click here to listen to the podcast

Trivia prizes sought

Our "History Mystery" on air contest continues to be very popular!  If you are an organization or business that would like to contribute tickets or admissions, please contact our host Nelson at nelson@hoosierhistorylive.org or our producer Molly at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org for instructions.

Prizes must fit in a standard business envelope. Hoosier History Live prefers to "snail mail" prizes to our trivia winners. And If prizes are time sensitive, they need to be offered well in advance of the event so that we can get them out in time.



We'd like to thank the following recent individual contributors who make this show possible. For a full list of contributors over the years, visit  Support the Show on our website.

  • Sandra Hurt
  • Chuck and Karen Bragg
  • Ken and Luan Marshall
  • Tom Swenson
  • Mike Freeland and Sharon Butsch Freeland
  • Dr. William McNiece
  • Serita Borgeas
  • Richard Stroup in memory of Robert W. Stroup
  • Bill Connor
  • Ann Frick
  • Charlotte Ottinger
  • John and Florence Stanton
  • Peggy Hollingsworth

Molly Head, executive producer (317) 506-7164 
Nelson Price, host and historian
Corene Nickel, web designer and tech manager

Richard Sullivan and Ryan DeRome, tech consultants
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer

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Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Acknowledgements to WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Monomedia, Henri Pensis, Maddie Fisher, Austin Cook, and many other individuals and organizations. We are independently produced and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorship and through individual contribution, either online at our yellow button on our newsletter or website, or by U.S. mail. For organizational sponsorship, which includes logos, links, and voiced credits in our podcasts and in our show, please contact Molly Head at (317) 506-7164 or email her at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org.

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Your contributions help keep Hoosier History Live on the air, on the web, in your inbox, and in our ARCHIVES!

© 2024 Hoosier History Live. All rights reserved.

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