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Historical marker draws attention to century-old Independence Day lynching in Indianapolis

Multicultural Spotlight: Historical marker draws attention to lynching in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana is recognizing a grim piece of its past by installing a new historical marker, indicating the place where a formerly enslaved man was lynched.

Supporters of the marker say it’s important to remember this sad part of history.

On July 4, 1845, a formerly enslaved man named John Tucker was beaten to death at the intersection of Illinois and Washington Streets in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.

“He was walking alone, unarmed down Washington Street and (was) encountered by these three drunk men on July 4, and (was) beaten to death because of the color of his skin,” Leon Bates, a doctoral student of Pan-African studies at the University of Louisville, said.

Two and a half years ago, Bates started the process to get the historical marker approved and installed.

Unveiled Saturday, the historical marker and lynching location sits a couple blocks from Monument Circle and the Statehouse in the heart of the city.

In 1845, having white residents condemn the lynching would have been a shock, but it happened. “More than two dozen white people came in and testified as to what happened and sent the guy that did it to prison,” Bates said.

It’s not clear how Tucker gained his freedom, but historians say he made his way here from Kentucky, and was building a life on the farm with his children.

Indiana State Rep. Gregory Porter says having the marker along Indianapolis’ Cultural Trail will put more eyes on this grim part of history.

“A person gets beat up losing his life on July 4. When he is a free slave in the South,” said Porter.

Porter says as we come to terms with modern-day trials, it’s important to not lose sight of the past, and acknowledge the not-so-great moments in time to better approach the future.

“(We need to) continue to educate this community and young people about the experiences of people of color here, in the city of Indianapolis, and throughout the state,” said Porter.