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Early Black Settlements

Popular understanding of Indiana black history focuses on post-Civil War African-American migration to cities in the north, such as Evansville, Fort Wayne, Gary, Indianapolis and South Bend. This generalized thinking situates Indiana’s African-Americans as part of a national story, but fails to reveal the stories of free blacks and formerly enslaved people who settled the state much earlier. These untold stories have the potential to evoke pride and add a level of complexity to our understanding of black heritage and Hoosier history. With a mounting interest in history related to Indiana’s Bicentennial, now is an opportune time to uncover and share untold parts of Indiana’s history.

Despite a rich history, little is known about the African-American experience from the state’s founding to the Civil War era. With the exception of a handful of monographs, graduate papers and journal articles, few publications have been written that focus on this history. Over the past 30 years, various research projects related to early black settlements have been completed by independent researchers, college professors and students, IHS, Indiana Humanities, Ball State University, Conner Prairie and Indiana Landmarks.

A planning grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. allowed IHS to convene interested organizations to guide a team of researchers to gather available research on early black settlements. These organizations include Southern Indiana Minority Enterprise Initiative, Indiana Landmarks, Indiana Historical Bureau, Indiana Tourism, Indiana Humanities, Indiana State Library, Indiana State Archives and the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

You can access the research for all 92 by clicking here or on the map below. 

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Read more about this project in "A Treasure Hunt: Black Rural Settlements in Indiana by 1870"  from the Winter 2015 issue of Traces. To download, just click on the cover.

Traces cover