NEW ALBANY – Indiana Landmarks has been a driving force in heritage preservation since the 1960’s.
In 1992, the organization started the Black Heritage Preservation Program to save historic African American sites across Indiana. They work with local community members to identify and document Black heritage sites that should be included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Indiana Landmarks is funding the research through grants. Officials at the organization said they have seen an increase in black heritage preservation and need additional help.
On Wednesday, Indiana Landmarks sent Eunice Trotter, director of the organization’s Black Heritage Preservation Program, to New Albany to tour and experience some of the city’s historic landmarks.
“We support all efforts to preserve black heritage,” Trotter said. “What I’m finding is that there is so much need across the state that what we’re doing now is going to leverage the support of other funding sources and work on that.”
Trotter attended Second Baptist Church, also known as Town Clock Church. The church was built in 1852 and was a connection of the Underground Railroad.
The church was of interest to Trotter for its connections to rescuing freed slaves as part of the Underground Railroad network. Trotter was invited to attend the Friends of the Town Clock Church board meeting to learn more about the history of the site and discuss other sites like the church.
During her visit, she met local author Pam Peters. They discussed their book, The Underground Railroad in Floyd County, Indiana. They talked about black heritage in the southern Indiana area.
Trotter said one reason black heritage must be preserved is because it was never written down.
“These contributions are not recognized because nobody wrote them down,” Trotter said. “What we need to do now is find out that information and that story so that we can then document it and share it.”
During her time at Indiana Landmarks, Trotter discovered that there was a church in Indianapolis that had been designed by a black architect in the early 1800s.
The Black Preservation effort is funded through a grant, and the organization is seeking information about buildings and sites that should be saved and recognized in the state.
Indiana Landmarks is always looking for help locating historical landmarks, regardless of race. The organization is not an agency and therefore cannot collect documents, but can provide information on where to donate.
“A lot of artifacts get lost on a regular basis because people don’t know what to do with them,” Totter said. “They don’t want them personally, so they throw them away and that story is over.”
The organization focuses more on preserving buildings that have historical significance for the area in which they are located. To contact the New Albany office about a building to be preserved, call 812-284-4534.
“It’s important to preserve these pieces of history because they are part of the overall history of this nation,” Trotter said. “These parts of history all fit into our history, and our history is not an island. It’s everyone’s story.”
To get involved in the Black Heritage Preservation Program, visit indianalandmarks.org and click on the Join & Give tab. From there you can donate, become a member and volunteer.
“We’re just always looking for people who are interested in exploring African American heritage,” Trotter said. “We are definitely interested in people who would like to support our work by contributing their resources to our program. We just want to form a team that is interested in preserving and remembering the contributions of African Americans.”