New Marker: Indiana town recognizes a dark day in its history

From the News and Tribune, of Floyd County, Indiana:

Recognizing Wrongs: Marker to Commemorate New Albany Race Riot of 1862

NEW ALBANY — A mob of angry white residents went street-to-street in New Albany, spilling blood and destroying property, fueled by fear and bent on exacting their fury upon black people during a 30-hour period in July 1862.

Aside from a few local newspaper stories of the riots — which historians dubbed as blatantly racist and felt did more to instigate mayhem than accurately report the tragedy — accounts of the violent outbreak are scarce.

It was almost as if the incident — which is believed to have led to the deaths of at least three black people and caused extensive property damage — had been swept under the rug.

But led by the research of Floyd County Historical Society member and author Pam Peters, the bloodshed and mob violence of those frightful hours will be recognized more than 150 years after the incident.

At 10 a.m. Aug. 18, an Indiana State Historical Marker bearing information about the riots will be unveiled. The marker will be placed in front of the Israel House at 142 W. Main St., which is the building that now houses Lamberts Distributors….

According to Peters, a black man was being chased by a mob when the wife of the house, Mary Israel, opened the door and let him into her home. She barred the door to keep the angry crowd away, and thus her bravery served as a bright spot during a dark period in New Albany’s history, Peters said.

In part to honor her actions, the marker — which makes New Albany’s 20th overall putting the city behind only Corydon and Indianapolis for most markers in the state — will be placed near the Israel House.

“That is one place we know for sure where an African-American at this time found refuge,” Peters said. (Read More)

The article goes on to provide a brief, but broader, background regarding race relations in what was then the western states. Currently, the Historical Marker Database list twelve markers in New Albany. A few of these markers offer pieces of the broader story. New Albany was an important waypoint on the Underground Railroad. One of those escaped slaves, Lucy Higgs Nichols, later played an active role in the Civil War as a nurse with the 23rd Indiana Infantry (please note the pension she secured with the aid of some of those veterans). But other markers tell of division and segregation. Public interpretation providing good seeds for conversation, if you ask me.

As Rev. Anthony B. Toran, pastor of the Galatian Missionary Baptist Church in New Albany, said at the end of the article, “Even though it’s painful, and it wasn’t a good time in the city of New Albany, it gives us an opportunity to recognize what happened and not make those mistakes again and maybe correct some of the things that are wrong.”

The nearby Louisville Courier-Journal also covered this story on Saturday, adding a video interview with Historian Pam Peters.

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