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Indiana Bicentennial Celebration 2016

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Legacy Projects > Indiana African American Heritage Trail Project Indiana African American Heritage Trail Project

The Indiana African American Heritage Trail Project was established as a heritage tourism/business development project ten (10) years ago to preserve and honor the history of African Americans, many of whom settled in the State prior to Statehood.

The trail project will enable tourists and residents to know a more complete history of each African American community in the State.  Recently, the Brown School’s founder entered into a collaboration with the Indiana Historical Society that will serve as an important underpinning for the trail project.  The Indiana Historical Society is overseeing a State-wide data collection effort that will, for the first time, provide a comprehensive data base of Indiana’s early African American settlers.

Another feature of the trail project has been an annual conference that has been organized to educate the public about the early history of African Americans.  The conference, titled, “A Progressive Journey through Indiana History,” is scheduled to be held in October 8-10, 2014, which will be the fourth annual gathering of its kind.  The highlight of the conference is a full day at Cedar Farm, an antebellum plantation-like property located on the Ohio River in Harrison County.  The property is owned by the Cook family of Bloomington and provides an ideal setting for the discussion of Indiana’s early African American history.  The conference is open to the public.

Q&A with Legacy Project Coordinator Maxine F. Brown

What do you consider the key accomplishment of your Legacy Project?

  • Three historic markers were added to the list of African American subjects in the State. The first, dedicated in the spring in Corydon, was to celebrate a young woman, Polly Strong, who sued for her freedom in Knox County, and which resulted in a landmark Indiana Supreme Court ruling that freed her. The second was dedicated in Indianapolis for James Overall, an Underground Railroad operative who helped many people to freedom. Mr. Overall's life was a testament to real humanitarianism. An 1836 case was significant when the judge ruled in favor of the natural right of a man to protect his family and property despite the prevailing laws against African Americans testifying against whites in court. The third marker celebrated the life of Chapman Harris of Madison, who was possibly the most prominent of all Underground Railroad operatives in Indiana.

Describe a highlight or most memorable moment related to your Legacy Project.

  • All of the sitting justices of the Indiana Supreme Court were present for the dedication of the Polly Strong marker.

How/where are you preserving information and artifacts related to your Legacy Project?

  • The Indiana Historical Bureau is the place where the information about the three markers is being preserved.

Total number of volunteers who participated.

  • 20

Estimated total attendance.

  • 200

Project Details

  • Organization: Leora Brown School (1891 Corydon Colored School)
  • County: Harrison
  • Contact: Maxine F. Brown, 812-738-3376,
  • Type: Non-profit
  • Project Number: IBC-YE-35
  • Website: