Phoning Home: Reflections of a Racist Reality
Updated: Jun 6, 2020
RANSOM PLACE, INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - I feel every emotion. My life would have been at Ransom here in Indianapolis just 150 years ago. Ransom Place that is, this neighborhood was ours, named after black Indy attorney Freeman B. Ransom. What a name. Read the sign, the first subdivisions were platted in 1865... gotta know your, know our history.
For the last 400 years, equality in America has been held captive and her citizens can't even bail her out. What's the price of equality, you ask!? It's not like you can just rewrite history...
NPS.Gov - Ransom Place Historic District (along Indiana Avenue) is the most intact 19th century neighborhood associated with African Americans in Indianapolis. The district was home to many black business leaders over its long history.
Through2Eyes article about Indiana Avenue
I think about Indiana's early black communities often. I actually drove up close to the old Beech Settlement near Carthage, Indiana on Sunday. I wanted to feel at home, feel free. As I drove through the small Indiana town I was on the phone with my friend Hanna, who helps direct some of my Through2Eyes adventures. I called because I was lost.
The earliest non-native settlers at the Historic Beech Settlement, located in Rush County, Indiana, were free people of color (most of them migrated from eastern North Carolina and Virginia) and a small number of free blacks, who came to the area with Quakers. Quakers are very nice to us.
The church is the last remaining public structure associated with the Mount Pleasant Beech community, the oldest free black settlement in the state. (Indiana Landmarks.)
There were over 60 rural black settlements in Indiana. The only 2 I've been to are Lyles Station and Roberts Settlement. Beech Settlement was one of Indiana's early black rural settlements as well, and also one of its largest.
I arrive in Carthage. MAGA flags flew high above front porches. My top was low down behind my back seats, everyone could see me. I used to not mind Trump, now I can't stand his voice/face. Anyone who can't say... "Black Lives Matter", I believe that they hate me. Ironically, I needed that hate, I had never felt it so strongly. We all did, we all needed America to hate again, to hurt again, so we can heal.
I couldn't find the building I was looking for, things like this are hard to find. It's just a building.
I drove up and down the same street over and over. Looking for a sign.
Everyone saw, but no one said a word, it was clear that I was not at home.
I felt uncomfortable, I didn't know them, but I knew their lives mattered. However, I wasn't convinced that they knew mine mattered, so I left. When in reality... we never leave it. But if I could go anywhere, where would I go? I think, Crispus Attucks High School, Ransom Place, in 1927. Now that would be.... great again, I suppose.
I want to be in Ransom Place, when they open up Attucks, our own high school!! Our own world!! Our own teachers, wow, our own teachers. What a wonderful school. I did a video over Indy's All-Black schools of the past. Attucks had world-class teachers that produced world-class alums, just watch the video.
Through2Eyes Indiana - Indy's All Black Schools
If only there was a college at Ransom Place..... because Butler wouldn't have wanted me. In 1927, Butler enacted a policy that only admitted 10 black students per year. I spoke about that in my video over the young black businesswoman and entrepreneur, Dora Atkins. Atkins graduated from Butler before the new policy was in place. Irony again, because Ransom Place does have college now, IUPUI, and IUPUI's expansion wiped out most of the iconic Ransom Place buildings.
The Butler Collegian - "In 1927, a policy that would only allow 10 black students admittance each year was passed by the Board of Trustees. “It does sound horrible, but there were other places that were much worse,” Childs-Helton said. “The administration was still trying to live up to the vision the founders had for the university.
Through2Eyes Indiana - Dora Atkins Video
Before 1927, there was no all-black high school. IPS Superintendent Abraham Shortridge welcomed black students into the district, including Mary Alice Rann, the first black graduate from Indianapolis Public Schools. IPS School #1 is now named after Shortridge. Joseph J. Bingham did not welcome black students into the district, including Mary Alice Rann, the first black graduate from Indianapolis Public Schools. IPS School #84 is named after Joseph J. Bingham.
INDIANA LIBRARY - Editor of the now-defunct Indianapolis Daily Sentinel, and member of the IPS school board, J. J. Bingham, came to the high school to confront Shortridge about admitting a black pupil. After making a derogatory remark, Bingham said, “I have a long communication in my pocket now in regard to it.” He was threatening to publish his feelings in his new paper, which would surely stir up additional protesters. Shortridge replied, “That is a good place for it; better let it stay in your pocket.” In the end, Bingham published nothing.
Did you read "derogatory remark" and wonder what he said? I did as well, and I know. Read the exchange for yourself .
The Indiana Quarterly Magazine of History, Volume 8, Issue 1 - Volume 9, Issue 4
Crispus Attucks High School, named after a colored man killed during a revolution, opened in 1927. Joseph J. Bingham School #84 named after a documented racist, opened in 1928. The school is at East 57th Street and Central Avenue in the Meridian Kessler neighborhood, and it's the most racist school in the city.
MyIPS.com - On September 10, 1928, the Joseph J. Bingham School #84 was opened for pupils in first through eighth grade with an enrollment of 419 students. The two story building consisted of an auditorium, office area, a home economics lab, a shop area, a library, and twelve classrooms.
In 2016, the Indianapolis Star put out an article with the headline,
"Why this IPS school is mostly white and wealthy?"
Here are some quotes from that article:
"This school, Center for Inquiry School 84, stands above the tumultuous reputation of Indianapolis Public Schools. It boasts an intensely rigorous curriculum. Experienced teachers. National awards for excellence."
"Not all IPS students have an equal shot at this bright spot in urban education. School 84 is a rare haven of excellence carved out primarily to attract the children of white, wealthy families."
"[District officials] blame society’s self-segregation for creating a school of 331 white students and 22 black students in a district that is 80 percent nonwhite."
"District officials defend School 84 as a critical piece of a plan to keep affluent whites from leaving IPS, a problem faced by urban districts across the United States."
"When School 84 was launched, the district changed the enrollment policies governing Center for Inquiry magnet schools. Neighborhood kids were given preference.... That put affluent white populations at an advantage."
"Unlike other IPS schools, the Center for Inquiry schools don’t suffer from the burnout and turnover of low-paid teachers who work in classrooms filled with at-risk students in chronically struggling schools. The schools hire mostly experienced teachers who tend to stay at the school for years, School 84 Principal Christine Collier said."
"At School 84, the white student population has more than quintupled since it opened. Less than 5 percent of its students are low-income."
"School 84 is the most obvious example of how the district’s policies have catered to affluent white families."
As Mary Alice Rann received her high school education, Bingham remained ignorant. Then IPS named a school after the guy and it's one of the most racist schools ever. I want that name changed.
School #84 intentionally keeps black people out of their school, just like Joseph J. Bingham would have wanted. How could anyone learn about real black history in a school named after that man!? An Indiana racist.
I put my top back down to feel free. At a minimum, I want to see the name of School #84 changed, so the kids can be free. We can all live together, I WANT to live together as one nation, but we have to remember that we once lived apart, and many of us still do (like at School #84).
It's just a small part of the price, that we should have never had to pay.
We must face history, then rewrite it, the right way. We write it, the right way. I feel every emotion.