A Really Troubled Past

“It’s hard to argue with the values of a diverse population.”

Edited by Reagan Skaggs.


Transcript for A Really Troubled Past

Indiana has a really troubled past with race. Marion was a very segregated city, and Marion, Indiana is the site of the last lynching in Indiana in 1936. And I think that that north-central swath of Indiana—Anderson, Kokomo, Muncie, Marion… Elwood, Indiana used to be like the Klan capital of Indiana. I mean, the Klan was very powerful in this state. Obviously, everyone at VU knows that they were playing a role as bidders on the property back in the mid-’20s. And even at Notre Dame, Knute Rockne – one of his players was beaten up. There was a Klan convention going on in South Bend around the same time if I remember correctly. One of his players got beat up, and the rest of the team went to avenge his beating, and Rockne headed them off which was a good thing because probably some of ‘em would have been killed. And I often ask my students, “Why do you think that Notre Dame player got beat up?” And they say, “Well, he was black,” and I say, “No, they didn’t have any black players. He was Catholic.” They often forget that the Klan didn’t have much use for people of color or Catholics.

My memories of Valparaiso, and I know since I’m a history teacher, and I know a lot about Valpo and stuff, I, that in 1959, there were twelve thousand five hundred people in Valparaiso. It’s twenty thousand less than today. Valpo was lily-white when I was a kid growing up. Porter County as a whole had been this kind of, you know, island. LaPorte County had some minorities—not to the extent that Lake County did, but you know, it—there just weren’t minorities here. There were some Eastern European immigrants like my mother, but no people of color.

You know, people probably felt that they liked Valpo without, you know, any African Americans, and they would—I’m sure there was an element that wanted to keep it that way, but I’m sure those elements existed in places like Gary where there were African Americans who had come up during—from the South during the Depression looking for work and stuff. So, it’s just part of the, you know, of Valpo’s past. It may not be a part that we should be especially proud of. Courageous people like Walt, and Karl Lutze, and others, though, who, you know, championed this movement of people, you know, did bring about significant change, and I think there—eventually, most people—I’m sure not everyone—accepted the fact that our community was changing and it’s hard to argue with the values of a diverse population.

But I just think, I do think, you know, there’s always a lot of work to be done in that area, and Walt Reiner started a long time ago, and it’s not done, you know that was, well, it’s not quite 50 years ago, 45 years ago or so, but it might be 100 years before we get it where we want it.

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