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Formed in the 1800’s, a network of secret routes and safe houses were used by slaves of African descent to escape to free states. Slaves would escape their plantations, travel along secret routes by night and day up to northern states, and eventually make their way into Canada. With the help of abolitionists, such as Levi Coffin, slaves were able to escape to freedom.
Fought from 1861-1865 between the North and South. It involved seven Southern slave states, eventually growing to eleven, splitting off from the United States and forming the Confederate States of America, or the “Confederacy.” The states that did not secede were known as the “Union” or the “North.” The origin of the war lay in the issue of slavery, especially the extension of slavery into western territories. By the end of the war, the Confederacy collapsed, slavery was abolished and the Reconstruction era began.
Dunkirk High School
Schools in Jay County have been integrated as early as 1902. Before the high schools in the area came together to form Jay County High School, Dunkirk was a community that had a sizeable African American population. There were at least 5 African American students who actively participated at Dunkirk High School. These students were involved in cheerleading, journalism and band, as well as taking on leadership positions.
A segregated pool in Delaware County during and after World War II. The efforts of Roy Buley were crucial in attempting at desegregating Tuhey pool. During a planned event, Buley took a few black students to the pool. He instructed the students to not fight back, even after they were harassed by white people at the pool. The police were called and the pool was closed, but a week later the pool reopened and it was desegregated. After some time, blacks and whites were allowed to use the pool together.
New Castle March for Equal Employment
In 1987 the New Castle NAACP organized a march to bring attention to and end what they believed to be racial discrimination in employment. African Americans were not being employed in government service jobs. Instead, they were confined to lowly service jobs, such as picking up trash. NAACP members such as Rick Cottman and Reverend Charles Harrison brought attention to the march through newspaper articles. A cross was burned in Rick Cottman’s yard as a result of his efforts. The march resulted in the hiring of the first African American firefighter in New Castle, Mark Boatright, who is now the fire chief.
Peggy Mika enrolled her 3 mixed race children into a local school in Elwood. However, she was forced to transfer her children to schools in Anderson with their father after being harassed by the KKK. She kept one of her children with her, Micah Mitchell, who had a white father. She began receiving threatening calls from the KKK. Members of the Klan would circle her house in cars, wearing their outfits. She was even harassed by coworkers at the factory where she worked. Peggy and Micah woke up one morning to a cross burning in their front yard. Peggy filed a civil rights report with the Justice Department.
Johnny Wilson is a star athlete from Anderson who had a very successful career in sports. Wilson ran track, played in the Negro League for baseball, and played basketball, even playing for the Harlem Globetrotters. When he traveled with his basketball team during college, he was not allowed to eat or sleep with the rest of the team because of his skin color. Wilson is an incredible example of a success story in overcoming discriminatory attitudes and actions.
Ball State Archives and Special Collections