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Ransom Family Papers Tell Business and Civil Rights Stories

Willard Ransom
Willard Ransom, 1991. Gift of Judith E. Ransom-Lewis, Indiana Historical Society

Freeman Briley Ransom was born in 1884 and moved to Indianapolis from Grenada, Miss., around 1910. He worked as a lawyer and the business manager for Madam C.J. Walker and her hair care company. Ransom's son, Willard, known as Mike, was born in  1916. Freeman also served as legal counsel for several organizations and was civically engaged.

After Freeman's death in 1947, Mike, a Harvard Law School graduate, took over as general manager for the company. Mike was heavily engaged in civil rights and politics. He served as president of the Indiana chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and led protests against citywide segregation. The first African-American director of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, Mike was also active with Indiana Black Expo and the Progressive Party. He died in 1995.

The Ransom family home was at 828 N. California St. on the west side of the city. Named in honor of the family patriarch’s civic and professional achievements, Ransom Place Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

The Ransom Family Papers includes business, civic and limited personal materials of Freeman and Mike Ransom. The bulk of Freeman's papers are related to his legal work for Walker and, along with the Madam C.J. Walker Papers, are an excellent resource for studying the company and Walker's real estate investments. The collection also includes correspondence related to Freeman's civic activities and his legal practice with partner Robert Lee Brokenburr. Mike's papers cover his work with the Walker Company, civil rights cases, the NAACP, Community Action Against Poverty and more.

For more information on the Ransom Family Papers, read the collection guide here.