Urban Roots (www.urbanrootspodcast.com), a podcast that tells little-known stories from urban history, has released two episodes that dig into the Black history of Indiana Avenue.
Many peolple are familiar with Madam C.J. Walker, the brilliant entrepreneur who built a haircare empire and became the first African American woman millionaire. But most don’t know that she used to live in Indianapolis and that her company’s headquarters used to be located along a once-vibrant Black corridor called Indiana Avenue, a place that today is known for parking lots, high-speed traffic, and uninspiring university buildings.
Why do so few people know this story? Because over decades, government planners and private developers slowly and systematically erased Indiana Avenue’s history. Luckily, however, some Black Hoosiers are working to uncover—and reclaim—what almost disappeared without a trace. In the two episodes dedicated to Indiana Avenue, Urban Roots tells their—and the Avenue’s—story.
In episode one, podcast hosts Deqah Hussein-Wetzel and Vanessa Quirk talk with incredibly distinguished Indiana-based experts: Madam C.J. Walker biographer (and descendent) A’Lelia Bundles; Susan Hall Dotson of the Indiana Historical Society; Claudia Polley of the Urban Legacy Lands Initiative; and Wildstyle Paschall, an artist and Central Indiana Community Foundation Community ambassador. In episode two, they continue the story and speak with more Black historians and activists who are working to not only preserve the little-known Black history of the city’s past, but also to reshape its future.
Urban Roots is an offshoot of Urbanist Media (www.urbanistmedia.org), a not-for-profit anti-racist community preservation collective. The podcast is produced by Cincinnati-based historic preservationist Deqah Hussein-Wetzel and New York-based cities journalist Vanessa Quirk. The first season dove into the histories of three of Cincinnati’s Black neighborhoods. In season two, the episodes tell stories of Black history in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Indianapolis. You can find Urban Roots wherever you listen to podcasts (Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, Pocket Casts) and on YouTube.
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Urban Roots’ Indiana Avenue episodes received support from an Indiana Humanities Action Grant.