Indiana, despite its name, is overwhelmingly a region of white people. The history of Native Americans in the state as organized bodies ended in 1872, when the state’s few remaining Miami dissolved their tribal bonds. The whites who settled the state were at first largely from the upland South, but by 1850 large numbers of German and Irish immigrants were coming in. In the 20th century, with the industrial development of the Calumet, workers poured in from southern and western Europe. The Calumet also attracted a generation of black sharecroppers’ children fleeing the poverty, racism, and violence they had experienced in the Deep South. By 1965 Gary had become the second major city in the United States, after Washington, D.C., where the black population outnumbered the white.
Blacks, whether slave or free, had traditionally not been welcome to stay in Indiana. The 1851 constitutional provision against black immigration was not removed until 1881, although it became obsolete in 1868 when the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified, guaranteeing civil rights to blacks in all states.
However, thousands of blacks were helped to travel through Indiana via the Underground Railroad, as the network to help slaves escape to Canada was called. The state was just across the river from a slave state (Kentucky), had canal towpaths, roads, and highways that conveniently ran north and south, and had many inhabitants who were outraged by the harsh federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. A particularly active route was the one through Wayne County, which was largely populated by members of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, a religious body actively opposed to slavery.
The house of Levi Coffin, a leading Quaker of Wayne County, is today a National Historic Site; between 2,000 and 10,000 escaped slaves were sheltered in that house on their way north to freedom.
For a time in the 1920s a secret antiminority organization, the Ku Klux Klan, was prominent in Indiana politics. The Klan, which began in the South after the Civil War and was revived there in 1915, flourished in many parts of the country in the 1920s. Processions of robed and hooded Klan members marched through city streets, burned crosses, and attempted to enforce its views of society and morality upon the state. In 1924 the Klan used its influence to help elect a sympathetic governor, Ed Jackson, but internal dissension caused the organization’s influence to fade.
After Jackson was indicted for allegedly offering bribes, the Klan lost momentum as a political force in the state. Indiana’s first schools for blacks were opened in 1869. Most schools in the state were segregated by race for many years, although many had become integrated by 1949, when segregation in public schools was ended by state law.
In 1967 Gary became one of the first major U.S. cities to have a black mayor when it elected Democrat Richard G. Hatcher. He served five terms, until 1987. During this time, however, steel production began to decline, many factory jobs disappeared, and poverty in the black community increased. The population of Gary, about 83 percent black in 1990, continues to decline, with many businesses moving to the suburbs. "Indiana" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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