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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

People of Indianapolis

Repository: Indiana University. Center for the Study of History and Memory

Collection Description (CRHP): Interviews contain materials regarding race relations, civil rights activism, and African American life and labor in Indianapolis.

See especially interviews with:

Coney, Mattie June 30, 1983
Call Number: 83-031
Physical Description
Not transcribed; 2 cassettes, 1 7/8 ips, 81 minutes; no index; February 1982 copy of Citizen's Forum, Inc. newsletter; article by Elmo G. Coney; brochure about the Citizens Forum; article about interviewee and husband
Interviewer: Stone, Greg
Access Status: Open
Mattie M. Coney, born May 30, 1909 and died August 1988, touches upon her childhood growing up in Tennessee and working her way through college. Her experiences as an Indianapolis, Indiana public school teacher led her to form the Citizens Forum, Inc., a neighborhood improvement program. Mrs. Coney discusses the goals of the Citizens Forum and her experiences as its director.

Downey, Virtea July 15, 1983
Call Number: 83-038
Physical Description: 45 pages; 2 cassettes, 1 7/8 ips, 70 minutes; no index
Interviewer: Stone, Greg
Access Status: Open
Throughout the interview Downey lists famous African- Americans from Indianapolis, including the Ink Spots, singer Dink Watson, race car driver Charles Wiggins, and Sam Cooke. She comments on the segregation and then integration of the Indianapolis school system during her tenure as a teacher. She mentions the activities of the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Muslims, and the Black Panthers, and their influence on politics during the Civil Rights Movement.
Virtea Downey, born in 1913 in Indianapolis, Indiana, attended Crispus Attucks High School and then A & I State College (later Tennessee State College) in Nashville, Tennessee. She then moved back to Indianapolis, Indiana and married. She worked in various factories during World War II after her husband was drafted. She then attended Butler University and the Jordan Conservatory of Music to receive a teaching degree honored by Indiana schools. She spent her teaching career in the Indianapolis Public School System, first teaching in elementary classrooms and then changing to special education.

Johnson, Edna L. October 10, 1983
Call Number: 83-042
Physical Description: 80 pages; 2 cassettes, 1 7/8 ips, 103 minutes; no index
Interviewer: Stone, Greg
Access Status: Open
Mrs. Edna L. Johnson, born March 1, 1918 and died October 15, 1999, discusses her involvement throughout her life in the Civil Rights Movement and the labor movement. She discusses her time at National Malleable and Steel Castings in Indianapolis, Indiana where she helped vote in the UAW-CIO labor union. Later she became president of the local chapter. The union combated both racial and sex discrimination in the workplace, advocating equal pay for equal work and desegregation of the work areas. During this time Mrs. Johnson was also an active member of many different civil rights organizations in Indianapolis. She discusses her political involvement as a lobbyist and poll worker for many years. She touches upon her work as a real estate broker. She initially struggled to find a sponsor to get a license to become an agent. She also had to overcome discrimination from other real estate brokers and agents, banks, mortgage lenders, and house sellers and buyers. She describes the problems of unemployment and police brutality in Indianapolis. Mrs. Johnson closes the interview by summing up her lifelong struggle to gain equal rights for African-Americans.

Richardson, Henry July 6, 1983
Call Number: 83-033
Physical Description: Not transcribed; 4 cassettes, 1 7/8 ips, 217 minutes; no index; issue of Summer 1970 Urban News; copy of protest against defeat of House Bill 114 presented by interviewee; newspaper article about interviewee; article from Indianapolis News about interviewee; letter to the editor from interviewee in December 23, 1982 Indianapolis News; Congressional Record proceedings from 93rd Congress session; booklet from ceremony honoring interviewee
Interviewer: Stone, Greg
Access Status: Open
Henry Richardson, born June 21, 1902 and died December 1983, was an Indianapolis, Indiana attorney. He discusses African-American history to 1926, segregation in the South, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Womack, Robert Walter June 29 ,1983
Call Number: 83-030
Physical Description: 56 pages; 2 cassettes, 1 7/8 ips, 90 minutes; no index
Interviewer: Stone, Greg
Access Status: Open
Mr. Womack discusses the music scene in Indianapolis, mentioning many famous jazz musicians that he had the opportunity to work with. He discusses the problem of racial discrimination and how it affected his travels with the bands he performed with. He also discusses the Lockefield riot in Indianapolis. He talks about the depressed economic status of the African-American community and school violence. Mr. Womack also speaks of his family's history, including his father's participation in the NAACP and the National Council of Churches. He participated in civil rights marches in Washington, DC, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. Mr. Womack and his father are both mentioned in Who's Who Among African Americans. Mr. Womack was employed as the music editor at the Indianapolis Recorder.
Robert Walter Womack, born July 10, 1916 and died December 1984, moved around a lot during his childhood, following his father who was a Methodist minister. During high school and college Mr. Womack became interested in music and started performing in marching bands, big bands, jazz bands, and swing bands. After graduation from college he moved to Indianapolis, Indiana and formed a series of big band groups that performed across the country.

Collection Description (Extant): This project consists of interviews about life and history in Indianapolis. The subjects include family migration patterns to Indianapolis, racial discrimination, school segregation, labor union activity, the quality of city services both past and present, and neighborhood security. Most people interviewed are senior citizens who have lived a majority of their adult lives in Indianapolis.

Access Copy Note: Interviews are housed in Weatherly Hall North, Room 122. Copies are also housed at the Indiana University Archives in Herman B Wells Library E460. For other locations housing the interviews from this project, please contact the Center for the Study of History and Memory office.

Collection URL: External Link

Date(s): 1983

Digital Status: No

Existing IDs: ohrc084

Extent: 43 interviews. Audiotapes, transcripts, and collateral materials.

Finding Aid URL: External Link

Language: English

Interviewees: Mattie Coney, Virtea Downey, Edna L. Johnson, Henry Richardson, Robert Walter Womack

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African American educators--Indiana
African Americans--Civil rights--Indiana
Black Panther Party
Citizens Forum (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Civil rights movements--Indiana
Crispus Attucks High School (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Discrimination in employment
Discrimination in housing--Indiana--Indianapolis
Indiana--Race relations
Labor movement--Indiana
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Washington, D.C., 1963
Police brutality
Race discrimination--Indiana


Sound recordings


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