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February 15, 2012

Tours to celebrate black history around area

The next one with space available is Feb. 24

CLARK COUNTY — Introductory tours of the Indiana African American Heritage Trail to selected sites in Jeffersonville and Clark County will be available during February.  

The trail is a collection of sites around Southern Indiana with significance to black history. Clark County sites include the old Taylor High School building on Wall Street — a black school during the segregation era; the old Masonic Lodge on Spring Street, which was built by black workers in the early 1900s; and the Underground Railroad historical marker along the banks of the Ohio River. It’s a project of the Southern Indiana Minority Enterprise Initiative, a local nonprofit group. The trail also visits sites in Floyd, Harrison, Jefferson, Orange and Gibson counties.

The tours are designed to be self-guided. However the Clark-Floyd County Tourism Bureau is providing a van for a couple of them. The first van tour, set for Thursday, Feb. 16 is already at capacity, according to a press release from the minority enterprise. Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore will take the tour to demonstrate his support for the heritage tourism project, according to a press release.

However, another tour is being planned for 10 a.m. Feb. 24. Reservations can be made by emailing mxnbrown@aol.com or phoning 502-550-0484. The release says if the response exceeds capacity for the Feb. 24 tour, efforts will be made to schedule another.

The tours will start at the Depot, 600 Quartermaster Court. The building, which serves as a welcome center for the tour, sits adjacent to Jeffersonville City Hall. Historians believe that at one time it housed black restrooms during the segregation era. The Depot, which serves coffee and other items, is open daily.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

The tours are being done as February is Black History Month. The designation got its start as Negro History Week in 1926, when Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson sought to raise awareness of black Americans’ contributions to society. February includes the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Since then, each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. This year’s theme is Black Women in American Culture and History. For more information, historic photos and resources check out africanamericanhistorymonth.gov.

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