There are many ways to celebrate Black History Month in The Bend, especially when it comes to the history of the local African American experience. Start with these historic sites and landmarks in and near South Bend.
RELATED CONTENT: Take a History Tour of The Bend
Indiana University South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center
When it opened in 1922, the Engman Public Natatorium was the City of South Bend’s first city-owned swimming pool. Now it’s an important public gathering place and museum that tells a rich, important story.
The Civil Rights Heritage Center opened in 2000. It preserves and honors past struggles locally for civil rights and social justice. It does so in part through its own story — a transformation from “public” pool that barred African Americans to an inclusive space. Local activism still flourishes here. Spending time at the CRHC can’t help but leave visitors humbled, then inspired.
African American Landmark Tour
Sponsored in part by the CRHC, the African American Landmark Tour is a collection of sites notable to local Black history. The tour is self-guided and can be driven. Some notable places on the tour include:
Engman Natatorium: Now home to the CRHC, it was built in 1921-22. Denied access to African Americans until segregated admission in 1937. The pool was desegregated in 1950.
Central High School: Opened in 1913 as South Bend High School, this integrated school graduated many of South Bend’s African American leaders from the 1930s on. It’s now an apartment building.
South Bend Cemetery: Integrated since its founding, the cemetery is home to one of South Bend’s first African American families, the Powells. Also interred at City Cemetery is former Vice President Schuyler Colfax, who as Speaker of the House guided passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.
The Second St. Joseph County Courthouse: Two landmark cases heard here regarding fugitive slaves eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Robertson’s Department Store: Now affordable apartments for seniors at 211 S. Michigan St., Robertson’s Department Store was once a premier downtown South Bend store and one of the few that allowed African Americans to try on clothing.
Olivet African Methodist Episcopal Church: This congregation was the first African American church founded in South Bend.
The Huggart Settlement
This is considered the first rural African American settlement in Northern Indiana, dating to 1834. The Huggart Settlement was just east of what is now Potato Creek State Park. There are two historical markers dedicated to the settlement: One at the corner of State Road 4 and Mulberry Road east of the park and another at Porter (Rea) Cemetery inside the park.
MORE INFO: History of the Huggart Settlement
Porter (Rea), although located on the park grounds, remains an active cemetery. It includes Black residents of the Huggart Settlement along with their white neighbors.
“We Shall Overcome” Statue
Dedicated in 2017, this statue in downtown South Bend is part of Leighton Plaza. It depicts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Notre Dame President Fr. Theodore Hesburgh in 1964 during a rally at Soldier Field in Chicago. They’re hand-in-hand singing “We Shall Overcome,” an anthem of the civil rights movement.
Black History Month Events
Black Lives Matter – South Bend is hosting virtual speaker series all February led by Dr. Dé Bryant, professor of psychology at Indiana University South Bend.