Archives Madness 2021: Sweet 16 Polls

Welcome to the Sweet 16! Below this year’s brackets are the voting polls for this round. If you need to see the artifact descriptions, please visit the blog post, “Archives Madness 2021: Meet the Competitors“.

The polls closes on Sunday, March 14, 2021 at 11:59 PM CST.

Archives Madness bracket for 2021.Mackey Arena Region

*For artifact descriptions, go to the Mackey Arena Region section in the blog post, “Archives Madness 2021: Meet the Competitors“.

Hinkle Fieldhouse Region

*For artifact descriptions, go to the Mackey Arena Region section in the blog post, “Archives Madness 2021: Meet the Competitors“.

Assembly Hall Region

*For artifact descriptions, go to the Mackey Arena Region section in the blog post, “Archives Madness 2021: Meet the Competitors“.

Lucas Oil Stadium Region

*For artifact descriptions, go to the Mackey Arena Region section in the blog post, “Archives Madness 2021: Meet the Competitors“.

Posted in Archives Madness | 5 Comments

Archives Madness 2021: Meet the Competing Institutions

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

University Archives and Special Collections

3rd floor of the David L. Rice Library

UASC Logo, n.d.

In the summer of 1972 the Lilly Endowment, Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana awarded the then Indiana State University Evansville a three-year grant to establish an archival project for the acquisition, preservation and processing of regional material. At the end of the third year the University was to assume responsibility for continuing the growth of the Special Collections.  It started with just a few regional history books on Indiana from the library’s own collection. Today, the University Archives and Special Collection has over 850 unique collections, 800 oral history interviews, 6,500 rare and unique books, and 30,000 digital resources.

Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science

411 SE Riverside Drive, Evansville, Indiana, 47713

Logo of the Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science, n.d.Evansville has had a museum since 1906, with today’s location dating to the 1950’s.  This appearance dates to a major update and remodel circa 2014. “The Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science houses a permanent collection of more than 30,000 objects, including fine and decorative art, as well as historic, anthropological, and natural history artifacts. Over twenty temporary, regional and international exhibitions are displayed each year in four galleries. The Koch Immersive Theater houses a 40-foot diameter domed screen with 360-degree digital projection featuring astronomy and science programming. Evansville Museum Transportation Center (EMTRAC) featuring transportation artifacts from the late 19th through the mid-20th centuries. On exhibit is a three-car train. The museum is home to a model train diorama of Evansville.


USI Art Collection

McCutchan Art Center/Pace Galleries at the College of Liberal Arts

The University’s art collection is primarily made up of two-dimensional prints executed during the 1970s and 1980s and includes student and faculty work. As the University Art Collection expands, the goal is to acquire a better balance of photography, ceramics and sculpture. The Art Collection Committee develops the collection through its art collection management plan. Students working with the collection learn art management, gallery work and art collection management.

John James Audubon Museum in John James Audubon State Park

3100 US Hwy 41 North, Henderson, Kentucky, 42419The museum interprets the lives and work of John James Audubon and his family within a timeline of world events. Three galleries chronicle the Audubon story, including the family’s 1810-1819 residency in Henderson, Kentucky. Over 200 objects are on display, including artifacts from Audubon’s Kentucky years, a complete set of his masterwork, The Birds of America, and many original artworks.

Historic New Harmony

401 North Arthur Street, New Harmony, Indiana, 47631

Historic New Harmony Logo, n.d.

Historic New Harmony is a unified program of the University of Southern Indiana and the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites. By preserving its utopian legacy, Historic New Harmony inspires innovation and progressive thought through its programs and collections. In 1985, the University of Southern Indiana assumed management of Historic New Harmony, encouraging cultural and educational programs, while maintaining historic properties. Within the USI Foundation, the Historic New Harmony Advisory Board supports the mission of Historic New Harmony. Today, as a unified program of the University of Southern Indiana and the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, Historic New Harmony realizes its mission of preserving New Harmony’s utopian legacy by inspiring innovation and progressive thought through its programs and collections. This work expands the original intent of the university’s involvement in New Harmony, which was to nurture this living laboratory for ideas – a place where students and teachers, tourists and scholars, leaders and seekers, can come together to experience, explore, and create.

University Archives in Bower-Suhrheinrich Library/Clifford Library

1600 Lincoln Avenue, Evansville, Indiana, 47722University of Evansville Logo, n.d.University Archives is the repository for archival records pertaining to the history and operations of the University of Evansville.

Working Men’s Institute

407 Tavern Street, New Harmony, Indiana, 47631

Working Men's Institute Logo, n.d.

Established by philanthropist William Maclure in 1838, the Working Men’s Institute (WMI) set as its mission the dissemination of useful knowledge to those who work with their hands. After 170 years of continuous service, this goal is still at the heart of our mission. Maclure, who was a business partner with Robert Owen in the communal experiment in New Harmony from 1825-1827, was devoted to the ideal of education for the common man as a means of positive change in society. At New Harmony, The Working Men’s Institute was one manifestation of this ideal. The Working Men’s Institute in New Harmony was the first of 144 WMIs in Indiana and 16 in Illinois. It is the only one remaining. Many WMIs were absorbed by township libraries or Carnegie libraries. Yet the one in New Harmony remained. Today, the WMI is a public library, a museum and an archive. In each of these areas, the WMI tries to stay true to the original mission of William Maclure.

Posted in history, library events | Leave a comment

Archives Madness 2021: Meet the Competitors

*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

Welcome back for the 5th annual Archives Madness event! The University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) is excited for this year’s competition. UASC is completing against and thanks for the participation of the following seven libraries and museums:

You can vote online at throughout the following rounds:

  • Sweet 16: March 8-14, 2021
  • Elite 8: March 15-21, 2021
  • Final 4: March 22-28, 2021
  • Championship: March 29-April 4, 2021.

Let’s meet the completing artifacts!Archives Madness bracket for 2021.Mackey Arena Region

1873 Steinway Piano (Working Men’s Institute)

Steinway Piano (1)This Steinway piano is from 1873.

Robert Dale Owen’s Obituary (Historic New Harmony)

Robert Owen's Obituary.Robert Dale Owen, born in Glasglow, Scotland in 1801, was the oldest son of Welsh industrialist and social reformer Robert Owen. Robert Dale, who shared many of his father’s views, came to the Unites States in 1825 to help manage the day-to-day of the New Harmony community. Although he left shortly after the community failed, Owen returned to New Harmony in 1833 and became a successful politician. Owen served in the Indiana House of Representatives from 1835 to 1838 and 1851 to 1853. This obituary, from the June 26, 1877 edition of the Evansville Journal was printed two days after Robert Dale Owen’s death in New York.

Frank Nuderscher Painting (John James Audubon State Park)

Frank Nuderscher Painting.Conceptual painting completed by St. Louis artist Frank Nuderscher sometime between 1939 and 1940. It was created as a concept for the Audubon Mural at the Henderson County Public Library. The image depicts the naturalist John James Audubon standing in the middle of a forest, carrying his satchel, musket, and sketchpad. A river flowing into a forested valley can also be seen in the background. This is from the Mrs. John C. Worsham Collection, JJA.1940.10.

“Primavera” Female Bust (Reitz Home Museum)

“Primavera” Female Bust.Spring the season of the year between winter and summer when plants begin to flower or grow leaves. On exhibit in the Reitz Home Museum. Credit: Evansville Museum Arts, History & Science, EMAS1968.341.0044.

Hinkle Fieldhouse Region

English Teapot (University of Evansville Library)

English Teapot.

The teapot, which is made of English moss rose china, measures 37 inches high and weighs roughly 90 pounds empty, 355 pounds filled. This teapot can hold enough tea for an estimated 850 people. The hand-painted teapot was made by Alfred Meakin of Tunstall, England in 1890. It first arrived in Evansville from England as a present to the old Ichenhauser & Sons Company on NW First Street, which claimed to be the largest glass and china dealer in the Midwest. Silas Ichenhauser was a trustee of Evansville College, and when the firm closed in 1927, he presented the teapot to the college, where it was displayed for years in the front hall of the Administration Building (now Olmsted Administration Hall).

Patrick Henry 1786 Land Grant (UASC)

Patrick Henry 1786 Land Grant.

This land grant was signed by Patrick Henry, then governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in 1786. At this time, America’s western border did not stretch past the Mississippi River and the Commonwealth of Virginia was comparable to Great Britain in land mass. This land grant was but one step in the slow process of transforming that mass, and other land, into what we today known as the United States.

1902 Steam Fire Pumper (Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science)

1902 Steam Fire Pumper

Harkening to the horse-drawn era, this 1902 steam pumper was built by the American Fire Company in 1902 and helped the Evansville Fire Department fight conflagrations in our city in the early 20th century. Named after Mayor Charles G. Covert—note the nameplate on the stack—it was in active service until the 1920s. The engine produced 130 pounds of steam pressure and could pump 1100 gallons of water in one minute. When four hoses were connected to the engine, it could throw water 100 feet horizontally. When only two hoses were connected, the engine could throw streams of water approximately 125 feet high. To produce steam, water was heated in the engine’s boiler. Collection of the Evansville Museum and gift of the Evansville Fire Department.

Ceramic Dishes by Émile Gallé (Reitz Home Museum)

Emille Galle dish. Emille Galle dish.







Émile Gallé was a French artist and designer who worked in glass and is one of the major innovators in the French Art Nouveau movement. Two small ceramic plaques for hanging on wall. “Ships Entering Harbor” (signed by Emile Galle of Nancy France) and “Winter Scene” (signed by Emile Galle of Nancy France). Gifts from Mary Legler Wilson. They are on exhibit Reitz Home Museum.

Assembly Hall Region

Vulcan Statue (Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science)

Vulcan Statue.

From the late 1880s through 1957, this nine-foot-tall statue of Vulcan stood atop the roof of Evansville’s Heilman Plow Works—later known as Vulcan Plow Company. Vulcan, originally known as the Roman god of fire and later the god of foundry and metalworking, was the trademark of the company and the statue a landmark in the city. As the story is told, riverboat travelers of the era upon seeing Vulcan from the Ohio River knew Evansville was their next port of call. Today, this sheet zinc statue is an impressive reminder of Vulcan Plow Company and of Evansville’s industrial past.

“Rising Sun” Quilt (USI Art Collection)

Rising Sun Quilt.

“Rising Sun”, 2003, Machine pieced and hand quilted medallion style quilt by Amos A. Graber, Miriam Graber, and Delores Kemp of the Old Order Amish community in Montgomery, Indiana. The quilt measures 107” long and 92” wide and is made from cotton and cotton/polyester blend fabrics.

Grace Golden Cap (Working Men’s Institute)

Grace Golden Cap

Cap belonging to Grace Golden, worn by her in Romeo and Juliet when it was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, dates from circa 1900.

German Heller Coin (USI Art Collection)

Coin with hand. Coin with a cross.







This German heller coin was minted in the town of Schwäbisch Hall during the period of what is now call the Bubonic Plague that overtook Europe from 1347 to 1350. The obverse is the image of the Hand of God and the reverse has a cross with arms ending in pellets, all within a circular border.

Lucas Oil Stadium Region

Silk Tapestry (University of Evansville Library)

Silk Tapestry with a dragon.

Embroidered with dark and light blue thread in the shape of a dragon, pink emblem embroidered beside it, artifact from a missionary’s collection of objects. The silk tapestry is believed to be a flag from the Qing dynasty, which was the emblem adopted in the late 19th century featuring the Azure Dragon.

*Defending 2020 Arch Madness champion.

New Harmony Centennial Pennant (Historic New Harmony)

New Harmony Centennial Pennant.

In 1914, New Harmony celebrated its Centennial with grand parades, parties and a visit from President Taft. New Harmony was founded by the Harmonists, a group of Lutheran separatists led by Father George Rapp, in 1814. This pennant was donated by Mrs. Jane Blaffer Owen, who was married to Kenneth Dale Owen, the great-great-grandson of Robert Owen. Most interesting is that the Granary is referred to as the “Rappite Fort.” This building was never used as a fort, but it became a very common misconception. There are even people today that still refer to it as a fort instead of a granary.

Male Yellow-Crowned Night Heron (John James Audubon State Park)

Male Yellow-Crowned Night Heron.

Taxidermy specimen of a male, yellow-crowned night heron that is believed to be an example of John James Audubon’s work. The heron is in a standing, alert position with both feet on a wooden platform decorated with dried grass. The heron’s neck is extended, and beak is closed. The bird has a distinctive yellow stripe running under its eyes. It is said that this heron is from Louisiana and was given by Audubon to his friend, Dr. Adam Rankin of Henderson, Kentucky, in 1812.

Red Light District Complaint Letter (UASC)

Red Light District Letter.

This letter written to Evansville Mayor John William Boehne, Sr., serving as mayor from 1906 to 1909, protesting the rumored establishment of an “official” red light district. Not in my neighborhood, the signatories say!

Posted in Arch Madness, Art, Indiana history, Local history | Leave a comment

Diversity and Harmony

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

We live in a time of great social and political unrest.  As a nation we are a diverse people who struggle to live in harmony.  One approach to dealing with this is to try to gain some understanding about the issues and viewpoints.  How can you even begin to comprehend Person ZYZ and his or her views on Issue ABC if you know very little about the person’s background, etc., and equally little about that issue?  Knowledge is power—and what better concept for a university to deal with than knowledge?!  This blog seeks to provide information about both the university’s and the library’s resources to gain understanding, to gain knowledge.  One example is the new 18 hour Africana Studies minor offered by the College of Liberal Arts.  This description of one of the introductory courses for that minor, AFRC 111, Introduction to Africana Studies, says it all.  “This interdisciplinary course will introduce and explore the past, present and future of Africana Studies and the paradigms and perspective that make up the discipline. The course will introduce students to African, African-American, and African Diaspora studies. Topics will include race constructions and representations of Blackness, slavery and emancipation, colonialism and anti-colonial resistance, Black internationalism, Diaspora, Apartheid, and Jim Crow.

University of Southern Indiana

Rice Library’s University Archives Special Collections (UASC) holds a collection of African cultural artifacts called The African Cultural Diversity Showcase.  “The showcase was envisioned and developed by Dr. Joseph Uduehi with the assistance of Dr. Michael Ndemanu and Dr. Amanual Beyin. Other contributors included Dr. Sweet Ebeigbe, whose cultural artifacts from Benin-City, Nigeria have enriched the collection, and Provost Ronald Rochon (now President) and Prof. Michael Aakhus both of whose collections have made a valuable impact on the showcase. The goal of the African Cultural Diversity Showcase is to educate the public about African culture through African artifacts that are physically available in a public place. This public place is the USI Rice Library, which houses these African visual artifacts. The artifacts are available to teach basic elements and principles of art as they pertain to lines, color, shape, form, texture, etc. at the elementary to college level.  The artifacts are also to showcase the common elements of cultural similarities across the African continent.” Artifacts from 5 African countries are included in this showcase/collection.  There are far more than can be shown here, and worthy of a look.  Why not schedule a time with University Archivist Jennifer Greene (812-464-1832; to come in and see more of them?  Let’s take a look at a few, mostly visually, of these countries and representative artifacts.

Resources Consulted:

UA 077, the African Cultural Diversity Showcase

All information pages on the countries courtesy of the CIA World Factbook, the one page country summaries.

Dress with blue, green, and tan coloring. Black dots throughout. Green bow.
Source: UASC 077-106; CAM 039.JPG
CIA World Factbook
Wooden wall sculpture depicting a man and woman carrying objects on their heads. Huts and trees are present in the background.
Source: UASC UA 077-222; CAM 037.JPG
CIA World Factbook
Black elephant, with plastic tusks, feels like leather, and actual hair on the ears.
Source: UASC UA 077-061; ERI 009
Tightly made tan wicker basket/vessel with a leather handle stitched to the top.
Source: UASC IMG_4858.JPG
CIA World Factbook
Small wooden statue stained black with large woven fan for hat. Very large flat head.
Source: UASC UA 077-153; GH 116
This sculpture, made from one piece of wood, is a unity carving. It is the most famous of Ghana’s art work, known for its beauty and for the difficulty of carving each one. It is made from one piece of wood, the roots of the baobob, redwood, or blackwood tree. The color is dark brown or black. It symbolizes the African struggle for freedom and the unity of the people.
Source: UASC UA 077-180
CIA World Factbook
This statue seems to represent the Nok culture in Nigeria. The exaggerated clothing and jewelry represented is typical of this culture. Red clay.
Source: UASC UA 077-022
Red clay jug painted grey and white with painted engravings into the jug from Nigeria.
Source: UASC IMG_4974.JPG
CIA World Factbook
Zulu telephone-wire inspired basket. It is tightly woven out of tall grass, and is tan and brown in color. This was typically used to carry small objects and used as decor. It is traditionally sold in markets.
Source: UASC UA 077-041
This is a marimba, a wooden musical instrument with steel like keys, made from a mixture of dark and light wood. The body is a gourd called a calabash. It is played with both thumbs. The tune is determined by the length of the keys and the maker. The marimba was developed in Central America by African slaves, and related to the balafon, another instrument made from a gourd and also built by African slaves. It is now the national instrument of Guatemala and Costa Rica. Its modern use includes solo performances, woodwind and brass ensembles, etc.
Source: UASC UA 077-049; SA 008






Posted in Africa, Art, Evansville, Indiana | Leave a comment

Separate, but NOT Equal

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Life isn’t fair … never has been, probably never will be. Acknowledgement of this fact does not excuse us from acknowledging inequity and educating ourselves about the past. Knowledge is power. This blog will examine the history of African-American education, with an emphasis on the local level.

First, a brief look at some legal precedents. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified July 9, 1868. As a “follow-up” to the Emancipation Proclamation and part of Reconstruction, it stated that citizenship was granted to

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States,” thereby granting citizenship to former slaves. Another equally important provision was the statement that “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The right to due process of law and

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States,” thereby granting citizenship to former slaves. Another equally important provision was the statement that “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The right to due process of law and equal protection of the law now applied to both the Federal and state governments.” As you might expect, this amendment, like all others, is open to interpretation. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court exists, at least in part, for that very reason, to provide a reasoned, legal interpretation of statutes, laws, court cases, amendments, etc. After the passage of this amendment, there were those who argued for racial segregation, positing that separation was acceptable so long as it was equitable. The Supreme Court weighed in: “on May 18, 1896, by a seven-to-one majority (one justice did not participate), [it] advanced the controversial “separate but equal” doctrine for assessing the constitutionality of racial segregation laws. Plessy v. Ferguson was the first major inquiry into the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment’s (1868) equal-protection clause, which prohibits the states from denying “equal protection of the laws” to any person within their jurisdictions. Although the majority opinion did not contain the phrase “separate but equal,” it gave constitutional sanction to laws designed to achieve racial segregation by means of separate and supposedly equal public facilities and services for African Americans and whites.” The doctrine of separate but equal was therefore the law of the land for almost 60 years. And separate is rarely equal. Let’s take a look at how this played out in Evansville and the Midwest.

Trotter (pg. 33) provides these observations about educational legislation in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. “When the Ohio legislature authorized tax levies for public education in 1825, it was silent on blacks. By 1829, however, when Cincinnati established its public school system, a new state law forbade blacks from attending public schools, but exempted them from the school tax levy. In 1847, the state supreme court ruled that children who were more than half white could attend the public schools, but only persistent protests by black leaders led to the establishment of separate schools for black children, paid for by black taxpayers and governed by a black board of directors elected by blacks. Still, it took a state supreme court ruling to force Cincinnati officials to comply. Even then, the city resisted enforcement; only in 1858 did the city’s first black public school open its doors. Thus, as late as the 1850s, when nearly 72 percent of the city’s white school-age children attended school, only about 38 percent of black children were so enrolled. Custom and law also excluded blacks or relegated them to segregated and unequal access to education in Kentucky and Indiana. Although Kentucky law permitted the education of slaves and free blacks, when Louisville established public schools in the 1820s, it excluded blacks. For its part, Indiana excluded blacks from its public school laws of 1852 and 1855.” In addition to these legal barriers, African-American students faced economic ones. “Black students….rarely attended beyond the sixth grade, for a number of reasons. The poverty of most black parents, who needed income that their children could secure, was one. The lack of a tradition that schooling mattered was reinforced by the limited range of jobs available. The low quality of educational facilities and of instruction also tended to discourage a commitment to more than the most basic education.” (Bigham/Jordan’s Banks, pg. 273)

According to Bigham/Fair Trial (pg. 40), the first black school in Evansville was established in the late 1850s. Classes were held either in an AME (African Methodist Episcopal) church or nearby. Although the church is not identified, it could possibly be Alexander/Alexander Chapel AME, which was founded, according to the Historic Evansville website, in 1843, although the physical structure wasn’t built until later. Circa 1867-1869, the first black school to be built, the Colored School/Upper Colored School, was erected at 422-424 Chestnut Street, on the corner with 5th Street. “In 1869, the Indiana General Assembly, led by Governor Baker, authorized the apportion of tax money for schools for Indiana’s blacks. The law was amended in 1877 to allow blacks to attend white schools if separate schools were not provided or if black students were sufficiently advanced to attend white schools, but it did not guarantee that separate schools would be equal in quality. Local option also meant that most Indiana communities—especially those on the Ohio River, would opt for segregated schools. The school trustees of Evansville began to provide formal education for black children of the city after June 6, 1869, when a committee of the board was appointed “to investigate and report upon the best way to furnish Negroes of the City and [Pigeon] Township with school privileges.” The same board also received a petition from blacks “asking that colored teachers might be appointed to teach the colored children.”” (Bigham/Fair Trial, pg. 42) The first black woman to head a school was Lucy Wilson, principal of Clark from 1876-1897. “The earliest extant minutes of the school board indicate that in the fall of 1871 there were four black teachers. Appointments were made on a different basis from those of whites, as black teachers were listed simply as first, second, third, and fourth colored. Salaries were also lower than those given whites. Townsend’s $700 salary, highest among the four black teachers, was equal to the amount paid the heads of the smallest white schools. The average for the other three teachers was less than $400, substantially lower than that of whites.” (Bigham/Fair Trial, pg. 43)

In On Jordan’s Banks, Bigham provides some further insights. Cincinnati’s black schools were generally of good quality, but as of 1874, seriously overcrowded and understaffed. There were only 20 teachers for 3 elementary schools and 1 high school, serving 1000 students! Despite this, attendance was high—95% in district schools and 98% in high school. In Louisville, Kentucky, in 1870, some 60% of black could not write, compared to only 6% of whites. Night schools for black workers were very popular here as elsewhere; Louisville workers paid 10 cents per week to attend. One night student said, “I go to help build up my race. I am educating my children and want to keep up with them and give them encouragement.” (pg. 279) Closer to home, Henderson financed a school for blacks with taxes in 1871, while Owensboro in that same year excluded blacks from schools by law. By 1874, Kentucky schools were officially segregated, with black trustees appointed by, and accountable to, white school board members and commissioners. By 1880, white students had four times more per capita spent on their education than did blacks, who also faced classrooms with up to 120 students. No black school had a library before 1900, and many black school buildings were in very poor condition. An 1883 law increased per capita funding for both black and white students, but prohibited white tax revenues from being used to repair black schools. Black teachers had morality clauses in their contracts which their white counterparts did not. Moving on to Indiana, Bigham notes that in 1883, Warrick County only had 2 black teachers—one in Boonville and the other in Newburgh. In Posey County, there was only one black school, in Mt. Vernon. Black students, the majority of whom lived in the county, had to travel as far as 10 miles to attend.

Bringing this back to Evansville, two years after the construction of the Colored School, Clark Street School, aka Lower Colored School, was built at 215 Clark Street. With a new building built in 1889, the high school was added in 1897. Around 1919 the school was renamed Frederick Douglass, honoring the famous abolitionist and orator. In the images below, on the left is the original Clark Street School in 1910, at that time used as a manual training or vocational school. (Some thought that black youth “should be trained for the vocations which are in demand in order to guarantee “the immediate uplift of the race.” Evansville needed beautiful lawns, they argued, not more black doctors or lawyers.”) (Bigham/Fair Trial, pg. 126) On the right is Frederick Douglass, photograph from the school’s 1928 yearbook, the Dougite. These two buildings stood next to each other; both were razed circa 1937.

Frederick Douglass High School. Source:
Frederick Douglass High School.

In 1927 or 1928, a plan to consolidate a number of black schools was put into action by the construction of Lincoln School at 635 Lincoln Avenue. The black community, wishing to continue to honor Frederick Douglass, protested the name, but in vain.

Postcard of Lincoln High School

In 1962 the high school closed and Lincoln became K-8, was an elementary school 1985-2009, and as of 2010, is once again a K-8. The school’s website provides this further information about its history: “Lincoln was the first new school built in Evansville for the black minority community. The school cost $275,000 to build. The school included twenty-two classrooms, a gymnasium, auditorium, sewing room, home economics kitchen, study hall, and manual training center. However, Lincoln didn’t have a cafeteria. The library had no books and the board refused to allocate money for that purpose. To stock the library, Mrs. Alberta K. McFarland Stevenson, Lincoln’s first librarian, went door to door collecting books and money donations. Classes were first begun in 1928. It was a K-12 school. Since Lincoln was the only black high school for miles around, black students from Mt. Vernon, Rockport, Newburgh, and Grandview were bussed to Evansville to attend Lincoln. In 1928, the enrollment was over 300.”

Clearly, Lincoln eventually got a cafeteria! Some of the members of the Lincoln High School faculty (among them, Theodore Mays [1909-1964], Amaryllis Martin [1920-2007], Marye Miller Brown [1915-2000], and Carl Lyles [Carl Chester Lyles, Sr. 1912-2005])
were seated with principal Charles Rochelle in the school cafeteria in this mid-1950s photograph.
The students include William George [William Odell (Bill) George 1930-2013], Austin Grithin, and Margie Carter.
Based on other photographs, Dr. Charles E. Rochelle (1895-1993) is believed to be 2nd from the right at the first table, facing the camera.

One of the schools that closed and incorporated into Lincoln was Oakdale School, at 1800 South Governor. Built in 1911, it was converted into a church circa 1962 and demolished around 1970.

Sketch of Oakdale School, as published in the Evansville Courier July 9, 1911.

Besides Clark St. and Oakdale, the other school closed and incorporated into Lincoln was Governor Street School, built in 1874 on the northeast corner of Governor St. and Mulberry St. and razed around 1962.

Governor Street School, circa 1911.
Source: UASC Brad Awe Collection, MSS 184-1086

Other black schools included Independence, Twelfth Avenue, Third Avenue, Chestnut Street, Walnut Street, and at least two schools in Union Township (no. 8 and no. 9, no photos found). For a period of about 19 years black high school classes were held in a building on 7th Avenue. It is possible that black students attended classes in other schools at times over the years, too.

The two schools above are related. On the left is Chestnut-Walnut School/Walnut Street School/9th Street School/Chestnut School, at 910 Chestnut Street/216 SE 9th Street, shown here around 1910. It was built in 1867 on 9th Street and a new building went up in 1894 on Chestnut St. On the right is the new building. The original 9th Street building was torn down in 1913 to make way for a new one fronting Walnut Street, shown on the right here in 1931. Circa 1962 and 1981, respectively, Chestnut and Walnut schools were razed. It appears as though they didn’t always serve as black schools, but when the Walnut St. school closed in 1962, its students went to Lincoln.

The two schools above are related. On the left is Chestnut-Walnut School/Walnut Street School/9th St. School/Chestnut School, at 910 Chestnut St./216 SE 9th St., shown here around 1910. It was built in 1867 on 9th St. and a new building went up in 1894 on Chestnut St. It is this second building that is pictured here. The original 9th St. building was torn down in 1913 to make way for a new one fronting Walnut St., shown on the right here in 1931. Circa 1962 and 1981, respectively, Chestnut and Walnut schools were razed. It appears as though they didn’t always serve as black schools, but when the Walnut St. school closed in 1962, its students went to Lincoln.

This building, at 200 NW 7th St., was built around 1860. It served a number of different purposes over the years: Vine St. School, city library, and Evansville Public Schools superintendent office. Between approximately 1878-1897 black high school students had classes in a portion of this building until they moved to Clark Street School. This building was razed circa 1939.

Schools for African-Americans in Evansville were available, but they were in no way equal to those for white students. Student-to-teacher ratios were high. There were no black kindergartens (at least not before January 1916), and for a time, very little education beyond 6th grade was available. Expenditures ran behind those in white schools–“per capita allocations ($13.38) were half that given to white schools.” (Bigham/Fair Trial, pg. 45) Access itself was an issue. “Third Avenue, Independence, and Governor students wishing the eighth grade had to walk to Clark. High school education was even more a luxury for blacks than it was for whites, for most students desiring it had to travel about a mile and also faced the pressure to enter the work force immediately after grammar school. It is unsurprising, therefore, that in 1900 44.5 percent of black children aged five to twenty were in school, as compared to 57.9 percent of white children. The illiteracy rate among black residents aged ten or more was 26.6 percent. For native whites, it was 1.7 percent, and for foreign-born whites it was 9.6 percent.” (Bigham/Fair Trial, pg. 44-45)

Facilities were a disgrace. “None of the schools had an auditorium, and hence the black community was forced to use Evans Hall—razed by the city in the early 1930s—for school programs. Playground equipment was not provided at Governor until May 1913, but the board never got around to building a swimming pool, as it had for whites. The physical condition of these schools was revealed by the board’s capital needs inventory of June 1919: Third Avenue had no indoor toilets (only Howell, among white schools, shared that distinction); Governor needed electric lighting throughout the building; and Clark’s laboratories were unheated.” (Bigham/Fair Trial, pg. 127) 

Salaries were also a disgrace. “The board adopted its first salary schedule in 1914, which strengthened the discriminatory compensation practices of the past. … The board set the maximum salary for teachers and the principal of Clark High School at $900 and $1,250, respectively, while placing limits of $1,600 and $3,150, respectively, on their white counterparts. In the summer of 1918 the board replaced this de facto form of discrimination with an explicitly Jim Crow form: In the future black teachers were to be paid according to the white salary schedule of the previous year. … In March 1920 the board agreed to pay black elementary teachers $1,350, on average, for the coming year, as compared with $1,500 among whites, and Principal Best was to receive $2,000. (The lowest salary for any white principal was $700 higher.) (Bigham/Fair Trial, pg. 127) To be clear about any question about qualifications, the Best mentioned here is Dr. William Ebenezer Best, who earned a masters degree from Indiana University and was granted an honorary doctorate from Wilberforce University. Other well-qualified African-American teachers and/or principals were George Washington Buckner (medical doctor, graduate of the Eclectic Medical College in Indianapolis), John R. Blackburn, Sr. (Dartmouth graduate), R. L. Yancey and Fannie Snow (both graduates of Fisk University), and Dr. Charles E. Rochelle (the first African American to earn a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, 1942). “Black educators remained the backbone of the black middle and upper classes and the role models for hundreds of black Evansvillians.” (Bigham/Fair Trial, pg. 129) Despite the inequities, there was also tremendous pride in black schools and their accomplishments. No less than W.E.B. DuBois spoke at the Clark High School graduation in 1909. (William Edward Burghardt DuBois, 1868-1963, was a civil rights activist, leader, sociologist, educator, historian, writer, editor, poet, scholar, and one of the founders of the NAACP. He was highly educated, the first African-American to receive a doctorate from Harvard University, in 1895.) Having him speak at a school in Evansville had to have been an incredible coup! Lincoln High School athletes were allowed to compete only against other black schools; in 1940, they were the National Negro High School champions in basketball. Two years later, Lincoln was admitted to IHSAA (Indiana High School Athletic Association). Interestingly, the black community contributed to the effort to bring a college to Evansville in 1918 but were denied admission.

Lincoln High School basketball team in the middle 1940s. Coach Thomas Cheeks is rear left.
Source: UASC Darrel Bigham Collection, MSS 181-0925

Fortunately, separate but equal (or not) did not remain the law of the land. “By the early 1950s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was working hard to challenge segregation laws in public schools, and had filed lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs in states such as South Carolina, Virginia and Delaware. In the case that would become most famous, a plaintiff named Oliver Brown filed a class-action suit against the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in 1951, after his daughter, Linda Brown, was denied entrance to Topeka’s all-white elementary schools. In his lawsuit, Brown claimed that schools for black children were not equal to the white schools, and that segregation violated the so-called “equal protection clause” of the 14th Amendment, which holds that no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”” Separate but equal was upheld by the U.S. District Court in Kansas. The case then came before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1952, which combined it with four similar cases into Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. At first the justices were divided, with the then chief justice Fred M. Vinson favoring Plessy v. Ferguson. In September 1953 Vinson passed away and was replaced as chief justice by Earl Warren. Warren favored Brown and was able to broker a unanimous decision. “In the decision, issued on May 17, 1954, Warren wrote that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place,” as segregated schools are “inherently unequal.” As a result, the Court ruled that the plaintiffs were being “deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.”

The tide may have begun to change, but inevitably there was pushback. In particular, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus refused to allow black students to attend Central High School in Little Rock. On September 4, 1957, he called out the Arkansas National Guard to prohibit the “Little Rock Nine” from entering the school. Governor Faubus remained obdurate despite attempts to persuade him of the illegality of his actions, and finally on September 25, the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kenutcky, called out by President Eisenhower and placed in charge of the National Guardsmen, escorted the nine students into the school. They may have entered the school, but that did not indicate smooth sailing ahead. The students were harassed and even had violence done to them. Family members lost jobs. The military remained at the school for the rest of the year. “In September 1958, one year after Central High was integrated, Governor Faubus closed all of Little Rock’s high schools for the entire year, pending a public vote, to prevent African American attendance. Little Rock citizens voted 19,470 to 7,561 against integration and the schools remained closed.” Watch this video entitled Who Were the Little Rock Nine? to see the students arriving at school and being escorted in.

This is the university’s mission statement: “USI is an engaged learning community advancing education and knowledge, enhancing civic and cultural awareness, and fostering partnerships through comprehensive outreach programs. We prepare individuals to live wisely in a diverse and global community.” This blog addresses one aspect of cultural awareness, of living in a diverse community. Learning about this history of African-American education may help us better understand that, indeed, black lives matter.

Resources Consulted:

Bigham, Darrel E. On Jordan’s banks: emancipation and its aftermath in the Ohio River Valley. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2006. UASC Regional Collection F520.6.N4 B54 2006

Bigham, Darrel E. We ask only a fair trial: a history of the Black community of Evansville, Indiana. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, c1987. F534.E9 B58 1987 (copies in the General Collection, UASC Regional Collection, University Archives

Brown v. Board of Education. April 8, 2020.

Historic Evansville website

The House Joint Resolution proposing the 14th amendment to the Constitution, June 16, 1866; Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789-1999; General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives.

Lincoln School webpage—About Us: History

Little Rock Nine. February 10, 2020.

Plessy v. Ferguson. Encyclopedia Britannica online. May 11, 2020.

Trotter, Joe William. River Jordan: African American urban life in the Ohio Valley. ebrary Academic Complete Online Access

UASC Collections:

  • MSS 026, the Joan Marchand Collection
  • MSS 129, the Olive Carruthers Collection
  • MSS 157, the Schlamp-Meyer Family Collection
  • MSS 181, the Darrel Bigham Collection
  • MSS 184, the Brad Awe Collection
  • RH 033, the Evansville Postcard Collection
Posted in Black History Month, history, Local history | Leave a comment