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.
And in Clark County, there are more historically significant sites to see.
The old Taylor High School building on Wall Street — which served as a black school during the segregation era — is the next stop on the trail in Clark County. A historical marker for the site is in the works.
Visitors also can make their way to the now-abandoned Masonic Lodge on the corner of Eight Street and Spring Street, which was built by black workers in early 1900s.
An Underground Railroad historical marker along the banks of the Ohio River is among the sites, as well. And the Remnant Trust library — which contains copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and original writings of Frederick Douglass — also could be on the tour for larger groups.
The trail is a project of Jeffersonville-based Southern Indiana Minority Enterprise Initiative, a 501(c)3 nonprofit group.
It’s received funding from the state and from the Jeffersonville Urban Enterprise Zone.
The trail also visits sites in Floyd, Harrison, Jefferson, Orange and Gibson counties.
“As we continue to research what has gone on in the area, we find more,” Brown said. “We’re mostly interested in authentic and historical sites and stories.”
So you know
• The Depot, a welcome center for the Southern Indiana Heritage Trail, opens Jan. 5. It’s located at 600 Quartermaster Court, just outside Jeffersonville City Hall.
Jenny was a slave in the early 1800s.
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