Today, Indy is a city filled with African American cultural attractions. Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration is the longest-running cultural event in the country, and Circle City Classic brings historic black colleges to square off in Lucas Oil Stadium. Everyday, there are places and events that connect with our heritage and showcase African American life in the city.
This interactive mapping tool directs you and your family to highlighted stories of black culture in Indianapolis. A project from the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative, the mapping experience is guided by the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy in an effort to diminish racial conflict, inspire courageous action, and strengthen Indianapolis. Using this unique mapping tool, you can select a location of interest, learn about its history and contributions to black culture in Indianapolis, and plan your visit. Locations on the map include but are not limited to:
Indiana Avenue is home to the Madam CJ Walker Theatre Center, and beginning in 1821 was home to a popular jazz scene that lasted until the 1970s. At the height of its jazz era, “The Avenue” featured over 33 jazz clubs with headliners including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, and more. Indiana Avenue also housed the first black-owned business in Indianapolis. In 1865, Samuel G. Smother opened a grocery store and later in 1879 The Indianapolis Leader was the first African American-owned newspaper in Indy.
Madam CJ Walker is famous for being self-made. The daughter of a former slave, Walker worked her way up to run an empire which made her one of the wealthiest, successful women in the 20th century. The Walker Manufacturing plant is now the Madam Walker Theatre Center which commemorates her zeal and drive for success. The building itself is a symbol of African-American pride and continues to be a beacon within the community. Temporarily closed for renovation through 2020.
This collection was gifted as a teaching collection to coincide with classes offered in the Art History Department. Consisting of various objects including materials made from wood, iron, ivory, clay, and brass, many pieces had ceremonial uses and relate to other activities which define the traditional, historical, and cultural aspects of West African life. Today, 32 African objects remain in Butler University’s collection.
The memorial was named for the famous civil rights leader and extends over 14 acres in Center Township of Indy. In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy visited the park initially to campaign, however instead had to deliver the news of Dr. King’s assassination. The video below was created to commemorate that fateful day. Landmark for Peace was dedicated by former President Bill Clinton in 1995 to honor both Dr. King and the late Mr. Kennedy for their contributions to our nation.
This theatrical program shows the varying, pre-Civil War attitudes towards African Americans in Indiana. Started in 1998, the program seeks to educate participants ages 12 and up about the struggles, dangers, and conditions that fugitive slaves experienced as they headed north to freedom.
See bravery through the eyes of Ruby Bridges, the first grader who attended the newly desegregated schools of New Orleans in 1960. The largest children’s museum in the world explores art, culture, science, and history in a way that appeals to the kid in all of us.
The Eiteljorg Suite of African and Oceanic Art is made up of more than 400 objects. This collection celebrates the richness and beauty of this culture featuring themes of power, importance of ancestors, life transitions, and more.
Legacy Theater is a diverse cultural experience of African American heritage through exhibits, artifacts, and theatrical performances. The theater presents fictional stories based on actual events which change periodically throughout the year.
From the Civil War and Indiana’s role on the Underground Railroad, to the legacies of Madam Walker and others, explore Indiana’s rich history via interactive exhibits, historic images, manuscripts, artifacts, and more.
Crispus Attucks, a black man, was the first person to die in the American Revolution in a slaughter that became known as the Boston Massacre. The Crispus Attucks Museum was created to educate and memorialize the “first hero of the American Revolution.”
Established in 1897, Ransom Place is the oldest African-American neighborhood in Indianapolis. The neighborhood originally consisted of four dozen homes on six city blocks and inspired the founding of the National Association for African-American Heritage Preservation. Ransom Place was named after Freeman B. Ransom, an attorney and general manager for the Walker Manufacturing Company.
This contemporary art gallery features paintings, sculptures, and mixed media works by local, national, and international African American artists.
A new initiative of the Indianapolis Public Library celebrates the literary and cultural contributions of African Americans in Indy and elsewhere. Located inside the beautiful, historic Central Library.
Along Indiana Avenue, a street that buzzed with nationally and internationally renowned jazz musicians, you’ll find a mural adorning the side of a music shop and featuring jazz greats like Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Coe, Slide Hampton, and others who developed their craft in Indy.
The ACT was created in 1990 to foster feelings of empowerment and enable self-discovery through the performing arts. The youth development organization uses traditions of African American performing arts to inspire and educate the performers and community through dance, song, and storytelling.