There are more than 500 historical markers speckled across the state of Indiana, many of which honor specific places, people and events significant in the history of African-American Hoosiers. Read on for more on five of these special sites.
Lyles Station was settled in the late 1840s by Joshua and Sanford Lyles, former slaves from Tennessee. The African Methodist Episcopal Church (since 1860) and schools (1865-1958) played important roles in sustaining the community. On land donated by Joshua Lyles, railroad companies maintained a station circa 1870-1950s for passenger, freight and mail service. Though the community declined after widespread flooding in 1913, it remains one of the most intact African-American settlements in the state. Several current residents are descendants of the original settlers. Lyles Consolidated School, built in 1919, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, and in 2001, restoration began.
Marker Location: County Road 500 West near County Road 100 North in front of the restored Lyles School, 5 miles west of Princeton, Indiana
St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church
Free Blacks and former slaves organized an African Methodist Episcopal congregation in Corydon by 1843. In 1851, church trustees purchased land in Corydon in order to build a facility for church and school purposes. In 1878, church trustees purchased land at this marker site and later built a frame church. In August of 1975, the congregation dedicated the brick church adjacent to the site. William Paul Quinn, who was appointed an A.M.E. missionary in 1840, established many congregations in frontier Indiana. Quinn was elected to the position of bishop in 1844. Many early churches served as schools and enriched Black social, cultural and political life.
Marker Location: Southeast corner of Maple and High streets in Corydon, Indiana
Senate Avenue YMCA
African-American leaders formed the Young Men’s Prayer Band in 1900, which became a branch of the city YMCA by 1910. Black and white leaders helped raise funds for a new building, which opened as the Senate Avenue YMCA in 1913. Booker T. Washington dedicated the building and Faburn DeFrantz led it from 1916 to 1951. It went on to become one of the largest Black YMCAs in the U.S.
The Senate Avenue YMCA became a center of community life, social activism and education for African-Americans. For decades, it sponsored “Monster Meetings” with national leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. DuBois, George Washington Carver and Eleanor Roosevelt. The Indianapolis YMCA integrated in 1950 and the Senate Avenue YMCA moved to Fall Creek in 1959.
Marker Location: 420 N. Senate Ave., at the southwest corner of Michigan Street and Senate Avenue in Indianapolis
Porter (Rea) Cemetery
This cemetery was officially created on Sept. 6, 1854, when Samuel Gard deeded land to trustees for a burial ground. Free African-American settlers from Huggart Settlement were buried there alongside their white neighbors, not segregated. Porter Cemetery Association was formed May 9, 1884, with both white and African-American charter members. The cemetery has always been a neighborhood burial ground for members from churches of various denominations. It has been called Porter Rea for decades, perhaps because both Porter and Rea families owned adjacent land. Although enclosed in Potato Creek State Park, it remains an active independent cemetery managed by Porter Cemetery Association.
Marker Location: Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty, Indiana
The Colored School
By 1874, what had been known as the Colored School opened in Center School at Sixth and Washington streets to serve African-American elementary students of Bloomington. An 1869 law had mandated education of colored children, with a separate enumeration and separate schools supported with tax revenue within the common school system. Before 1869, education of African-Americans was generally not within the common school system. The school building on this site was used until 1915, when it was replaced by the Carnegie library. Students attended classes at another site until the new Benjamin Banneker School opened on the west side of the city in December of 1915. The school remained segregated until 1951.
Marker Location: Sixth and Washington streets in Bloomington, Indiana
Source: Indiana Historical Bureau