News and Tribune

Clark County

December 26, 2008

Southern Indiana Heritage Trail seeks to explain local black history

History’s lessons

Jenny was a slave in the early 1800s.

The legend goes that she was kidnapped by American Indians in Kentucky, brought across the Ohio River and sold to a French fur trader in Southern Indiana.

The irony was that Indiana was supposedly a free state at the time, making her enslavement not only a reflection of the reprehensible back-then mores, but also technically illegal.

Why was this allowed? Did Jenny ever gain her freedom? If so, how was it accomplished?

“There are all these ironies about African American history that need a little more explanation,” said Maxine Brown, one of the founders of the Heritage Trail. The trail features a multicounty string of historically significant black history sites.

The trail — a project that’s been in development in Southern Indiana for the last three years — will open its welcome center in Jeffersonville on Jan. 5.

Officials hope to shed some light on the questions regarding Jenny and others.

It will be located at Quartermaster Court — just outside Jeffersonville City Hall — in a building now known as The Depot.

Most recently, the building housed a now-defunct coffee shop. However, there is a belief that at one time it housed black restrooms back in the days of segregation.

The building is small but finely renovated with glass doors, wood trim and modern countertops. Brown hopes to use the improvements made by the former coffee shop to the trail’s advantage.

The plan is to dispense oral and on-brochure history lessons with a side of coffee and continental-style breakfast and lunch, explained Natacha Adams. She will manage the welcome center.

Soups and sandwiches will be on the menu and historical vignettes will be placed on the table for those who visit.

Adams believes it will not only be educational but inspiring, especially for the younger generation.

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