African American rural settlements documented: 0
The principle African American population first attracted by economic opportunity to Delaware County was located in the city of Muncie. The most significant increase in population occurred in conjunction with the natural gas boom that began in the mid 1880s.
The nineteenth century African American population in Delaware County was very small even within the city limits of Muncie. In the decades between 1840 and 1870, seven of Delaware County’s twelve townships enumerated no African Americans on the decennial censuses. Four of those townships recorded their first African American residents on the 1870 census as follows: Union, 1; Delaware, 1; Perry, 1; and Mount Pleasant, 3. Muncie’s black population increased from 4 persons in 1840, to 16 persons in 1860, to 48 persons in 1870.
According to Hurley Goodall, the earliest records of African Americans in Muncie are found in accounts of paupers. In 1839 the overseer of the poor bound out “three poor colored children by the name of Clark” (p 1). On the other end of the spectrum was Edward Scott, a barber born in Virginia, who moved to Muncie with his North Carolina born wife, Mary, via Henry County. They are Muncie’s only African American family until Silas Shoecraft arrives in 1850.
The African American population increases slowly following the Civil War. In 1880 there are 187 individuals living in Muncie. Among the forty households there are surnames such as Evans, Booker, Collins, Poindexter, Williams, Roberts, Stokes, Baxter, Artist/Artis, Morin, Jones and Ferguson. Goodall reports that in 1880 some thirty to forty black children attended public schools including four pupils in high school. The black community was concentrated on the near east side of town.
In 1868 a small group met to organize a church. By 1872 they were able to acquire property. Men built a log church known as Bethel African Methodist Episcopal. By 1896 the church was in a new building that remains part of the present structure at Jackson and Beacon Streets.
Muncie’s black Baptists organized in 1872 as Second Baptist Church and were meeting in a frame building in 1881. By 1903 the congregation finished construction on a new brick building and took its current name, Calvary Baptist Church.
As the twentieth century opened, the black population continued to grow. Goodall observes that the influx of African Americans during this time period originated from smaller communities within Indiana and eastern Ohio. By 1920 Muncie’s black population totaled 2,054 or 5.6% of the total population. African Americans began to move into the Whitely neighborhood which Goodall describes as “quite rural” at the time.
As in several other Indiana cities in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan ascended to a position of power in Muncie. Goodall says, “Racial matters took a backward step” and “color became a greater dividing line.” Despite the climate of terror Muncie remained free of collective violence. The black community of Muncie developed a rich social life and a thriving community.
Blocker, J.S. Jr. “Black Migration to Muncie, 1860-1930.” Indiana Magazine of History. 1996: 4: 297-320.
“Celebrating Local African American History.” Ball State University. Accessed July 31, 2014.
Goodall, Hurley. A History of Negroes in Muncie. Muncie, Indiana: Ball State University, 1976.
Helm, Thomas B. History of Delaware County, Indiana. Chicago: Kingman Brothers, 1881.
Delaware County Interim Report. Indianapolis, Ind.: Historic Landmarks Foundation, 1985.
“The History of Bethel AME Church” Accessed July 31, 2014.
Kemper, G.W.H., Ed. A Twentieth Century History of Delaware County, Indiana. 1908. Reprint, Evansville, Indiana: Whippoorwill Publications, 1983
Spurgeon, Wiley W. Muncie & Delaware County, an Illustrated Retrospective. Woodland Hills, California: Windsor Publications, 1984.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. “Aggregate Amount of Each Description of Persons within District of Indiana,” 1: 352. Sixth Census of the United States, 1840. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Office, 1841.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. “Population of Civil Divisions Less Than Counties; Table III—State of Indiana,” 1: 124. Ninth Census of the United States, 1870. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1872.
By Georgia Cravey, July 31, 2014