Learn more about South Bend's Black History along the African American Landmark Tour

NOW: Learn more about South Bend’s Black History along the African American Landmark Tour

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- This Black History Month, you can take a step back in time through the African American Landmark Tour developed by the Civil Rights Heritage Center at Indiana University South Bend.

The experience itself allows us to learn more about the histories of the past that happened in our own neighborhoods. Assistant director and curator of IU-South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center, George Garner says by highlighting the Black community, it helps tell the entire story of the area.

“You cannot teach American history without teaching African American history,” said Garner. “You can’t teach South Bend history without the history of African Americans, without the history of Latin X people, without the history of the LGBTQ people, without the history of the Muslim people…And so, what this project does is bring that story at the places where it happened.”

The Civil Rights Heritage Center brings to life the stories of the past that may otherwise be overlooked. Along the tour are 17 stops from schools to churches to neighborhoods, each providing a rich history of South Bend’s early Black communities. Recent updates to the tour include new signage and oral histories and educator resources that can be found online.

Garner shared some of the spots along the tour starting with “The Lake.” Housed in a predominantly Black neighborhood, “The Lake” became a place for change as the community gathered to fight inequality by paving roads and laying the groundwork for the Charles Black Community Center.

“During World War I and World War II the lake was the predominant place where African-Americans were even allowed to buy a home,” said Garner. Because this was such a hub of a community this also became a hub of action against housing discrimination."

Not too far down the road, is a location with three stops on the tour: two churches, Pilgrim Baptist and St. Augustine’s have stood the test of time and are still in operation today. However, Garner says churches like St. Augustine’s began due to segregation in the area.

“It started in the early 1920s when White Catholic churches denied the ability of Black Catholics to worship, so one particular Reverend formed Saint Augustine's as a way for Black Catholics to practice…To this day, it remains a very multicultural space for both White and Black Catholics."

As these churches have stayed in operation for nearly one hundred years, some landmarks are not so lucky. The Old West Side Recreation Club is now vacant, but thanks to the landmark tour, it keeps alive the stories of Black professionals of the early 1900s that used to socialize in the hall.

"This is an example of how important it is to preserve local sites of history as well, and how when it comes to historic preservation,” said Garner. “Sometimes African-American history doesn't get the attention that it deserves."

The tours are free and self-guided. Contact the civil rights heritage center for guided tours or transportation options. Click here to learn more about the history behind all 17 locations.

Share this article: