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Historical marker honors Indy school's legacy educating African American children

"The school was the center point for the neighborhood," said Ron Lovett, who attended the school.

INDIANAPOLIS — For decades, John Hope School No. 26 served as a beacon for all those who attended school and worked there.

"The school was the center point for the neighborhood," said Ron Lovett, an alumni of the school.

It was one of the first public schools for African American students in Indianapolis. Inside, it housed the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library - the first African American library in the city.

Lovett, who attended the school in the 1960s, said the teachers and students coming through the doors were a tight-knit part of the vibrant, close community it served.

"From when it opened in 1920 to when it closed in 1997, it was full of kids, full of life. It was a neighborhood hub for everything until the interstate came through and divided the community," Lovett said. 

"Markers return stories to the historical landscape where they belong," said Casey Pfeiffer, historical marker program director at the Indiana Historical Bureau.

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Now, decades later, the school's chapter in the city's history is being recognized.

Credit: Provided by The Oaks Academy

"Here's a school that opened up early 1901, and this marker really tells a story of segregation and discrimination in the school system at the time. But it also is a positive story of the way the community worked to overcome the barriers placed in front of it and really champion education," Pfeiffer said. 

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Monday evening, former students of No. 26 came out to watch the premiere of a documentary about the history of the school and the neighborhood, as well as to see a historical marker unveiled, honoring the school's legacy.

Credit: Provided by The Oaks Academy

Lovett said he's grateful to see this history recognized, and hopeful the marker helps keep the memories of the neighborhood alive for the generations to come.

"It's been a long time coming. And I think my kids, my grandkids and other kids that go to the Oaks will have a legacy that they can look back on about this school and this building," Lovett said.

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