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South Bend's Own Words

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South Bend's Own Words

IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center

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People's stories recorded from the Oral History Collection of the Civil Rights Heritage Center at the Indiana University South Bend Archives. Telling the history of the civil rights movement and the experiences of the Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, and other marginalized peoples in South Bend, Indiana. For more, visit crhc.iusb.edu.
 
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Dr. Les Lamon was a long-time history Professor at IU South Bend. In 2000, he started the Freedom Summer class that brought students on a bus tour through the civil rights movement in the U.S. South. David Healey was a student in that class. Inspired by his experience, he became an early founding member of the Civil Rights Heritage Center on campus…
 
In the 1970s, Ricardo Parra helped organize and direct a new midwest chapter of the National Council of La Raza, a progressive Chicano political advocacy group. Over the following decades, both Ricardo and his wife, Olga Villa, became integrally involved in South Bend’s growing Latinx community. They allied themselves with almost every local organi…
 
In 1952, three-year-old Ralph Miles moved with his family to South Bend after an uncle told Ralph's father that the Bendix company was hiring. Ralph’s special needs school gave him work well beyond his grade level. He left that school to attend Harrison and then Washington. The work was on grade level, and way too easy for him. Bored, and without a…
 
In the 1920s, Lucille Sneed’s parents left Tennessee for South Bend to work at Studebaker. They were part of the first wave of African Americans migrating north chasing what they saw as opportunities in factory jobs. During World War II, Lucille’s brother was called into military service. Lucille took his place at the Studebaker factory. She stayed…
 
Do you know someone whose story about South Bend should be preserved? We're seeking nominations for new oral history recordings. Every year, we'll invite about six people with unique, compelling stories to share how they experienced South Bend's past. Nominate someone now: https://go.iu.edu/3WVo Learn more about the new oral history recording proje…
 
In 1867, the people inhabiting what we now call South Bend established a corporation to run community schools. Today, few things are as important, or as fought over, as our public schools. This episode shares stories from people who were children in South Bend schools from the early through late-mid 20th century, as well as stories from people who,…
 
Marguerite Taylor is a long time resident of South Bend’s north east side. She’s the daughter of Renelda Robinson, a neighborhood leader honored as the namesake of the Robinson Community Learning Center. As a girl, Renelda got to travel by playing softball for a local chapter of the The American Negro Girls Softball League. She did this when sports…
 
Jerome Perkins was one of the first African Americans to serve as a police officer in South Bend, serving from 1952 to 1972. Back then, just like now, deep frustrations over African Americans’ treatment at the hands of police grew ever deeper. Jerome answered a call from the Mayor who hoped to improve community relationships by installing more Blac…
 
Savino Rivera, Sr. is a bilingual educator and coach with two decades of service to the South Bend Community School Corporation. He's the child of two migrant farm workers. When his father left the family, his mother continued farm work to support him and his nine brothers and sisters. With her working almost every hour almost every day, and with n…
 
Jeannette Hughes' father taught church history. The job meant she and her family moved to many different college towns around the U.S. Being part of a fundamentalist faith group, Jeannette had little conception of a transgender identity. She had, as she called it, “a normal boyhood.” Still, she knew that she wanted her cousins to call her “Sandy,” …
 
Willie Mae Butts was born in West Virginia. She came to South Bend in 1952 when her husband decided to open a medical practice along West Washington. Willie Mae devoted so much of her time—to working with her husband’s medical practice, to raising her children, and to many local causes, including as the first African American woman elected to South…
 
Ben Johnson is best known as one of only thirty people who served all eight years in President Bill Clinton’s administration. His parents were sharecroppers from Arkansas who moved to South Bend when Ben was a young child. Ben spent many years here, and became a strong advocate in the fight for African American equality. That advocacy brought him i…
 
The late Rep. John Lewis speaks at Indiana University South Bend in 2001. In 2001, Charlotte Pfeifer was Director of Indiana University South Bend’s Office of Campus Diversity as well as a South Bend Common Council representative. That year she led the fifth in a series of events called “Conversations On Race.” The keynote speaker was Representativ…
 
NOTE: Work on this episode of South Bend’s Own Words started before the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. With respect to the uprisings in cities across the U.S. right now, we wanted to be sure their names were said. There are far too many other names to share, and our city is not immune to police violence. The murder of E…
 
Jenell Kauffman learned to embrace dual identities. Born with the name John Danforth, Jenell knew as early as age six that "it would be nice" to be a woman. What Jenell lacked was the language of the transgender experience. As a young person, John knew there were people who were cross-dressers, or drag queens. But the world John lived in was strict…
 
Bishop Donald L. Alford is a staple along South Bend’s Western Avenue. He’s the founder and pastor of Pentecostal Cathedral Church of God in Christ, and also the founder and owner of Alford’s Mortuary. A lifelong resident of South Bend, Bishop Alford graduated from Washington High School in 1957. In 2007, Bishop Alford sat down with Indiana Univers…
 
Federico served as the first Latino fire fighter in South Bend. While there, his white colleagues gave him the nickname “Chico.” It’s a name he’s grown to embrace. He was born near the Rio Grande Valley to migrant farm worker parents. Chico’s mother insisted that the family stay put somewhere, and through family they found permanent jobs at the Dod…
 
Glenda Rae Hernandez embraced the movement for civil rights in the U.S. south. As a college student, she signed petitions not to eat at Woolworth’s until they integrated their lunch counters. She even attended a lecture by a young Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King. In 1965, Glenda and her husband moved to South Bend. She soon began advocating for he…
 
Dr. Irving Allen is the son of Elizabeth Fletcher and J. Chester Allen. They were lawyers who, among their many actions, helped integrate the Engman Public Natatorium. As black professionals though, the Allen’s faced aggressions—mostly from their South Bend neighbors and colleagues, but even from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In August 2004, Dr. Al…
 
Andrea Petrass lived almost her whole life in South Bend. She was assigned male at birth, and though she was able to play the part of a boy, she knew she wanted to be one of the girls. Without any role models of people who had transitioned, she had no language to express that as an option. In 2015, before her transition, Andrea sat down with Dr. Ja…
 
On April 4, 1968, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a white supremacist. The news echoed throughout the U.S. We hear from five people in South Bend who remember that day and the immediate aftermath: Charlotte Huddleston, Willie Mae Butts, Lynn Coleman, George Neagu, and Karen White. Want to learn more about South Bend’s hi…
 
Lois Clark is a tireless advocate for peace and justice. For four decades she served with the local Head Start, educating scores of children. As Mayor Pete Buttigieg put it when he honored Lois in 2013,"She has made an incalculable impact." But many in South Bend recognize her as one of the people who stand, or in Lois’ case, sit, on a downtown str…
 
Anita Roberts is descended from one of the first families of color in South Bend. Her grandfather worked as a foreman at the Studebaker wagon factory, and her grandmother as a domestic worker in the Studebaker family home. As an adult, Anita moved to New York to embark on a long career, first as a union activist and later as a representative for th…
 
Willie Coats lived almost his entire lifetime in South Bend, mostly on West Washington Street. As a child, he lacked the historical framework to understand the racism he encountered. As an adult, and after he read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, he could put his experiences in context—like the racial slurs shouted at him by white neighbors, and wit…
 
David Healey was a part of the first Indiana University South Bend Freedom Summer class in the summer of 2000. Fifteen students toured the southern U.S. to learn how the civil rights movement unfolded there. It changed the student's lives. Two of them decided to start a South Bend civil rights center, and they asked David to join. David got to work…
 
Father Theodore Hesburgh is an author, educator, and advocate for justice who served the University of Notre Dame for over three decades. Among his many actions, he served under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon on the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights. In 2009, the day before the inauguration of the first African American President…
 
Oscar Jones, Jackie Ivory, and Bobby Stone were heavily inspired by the Mississippi Delta blues they heard growing up. As teenagers, they’d sing doo-bop music on street corners on the west side of South Bend. It led to lifelong careers in music for both Bobby Stone and Jackie Ivory, and a lifelong love of music for all three. They performed togethe…
 
John Charles Bryant is descended from of one of the first African American families to call South Bend home. His ancestors moved here in 1858, seven years before the city officially incorporated. Every generation since has contributed things big and small to this city, and John Charles has detailed information about all of them. He has an encyclope…
 
South Bend, Indiana residents have likely seen a group of people holding signs on a downtown street corner saying messages such as, “Honk for Peace." Reynaldo Hernandez is one of those people. He and his wife, Glenda Rae, have been active fighters for peace and social justice issues in this city for decades. Born in Texas to parents of Mexican heri…
 
When Barbara Brandy was nine years old, a group of her family and friends tried to come into the Engman Public Natatorium to swim. At the time, the city-owned pool was segregated by day. Monday was the only day African Americans could swim. Barbara and her friends came after church on Sunday. The white man behind the ticket booth told them, “No.” T…
 
Paula Gonzalez came with her family to South Bend in 1948. They came through the migrant farm track from Texas. As a child, she spent a few months working with her family on the farms. She then spent the rest of her life with organizations that helped make migrant farm work safer and better. September 15 through October 15, 2017 is Hispanic Heritag…
 
Leroy and Margaret Cobb were two of the 26 people who fought severe housing discrimination in order to build a safe, stable, and wonderful neighborhood. The organization was called the Better Homes of South Bend. Read more about Better Homes from Gabrielle Robinson’s book, _Better Homes of South Bend_. Check out a copy at any of the libraries liste…
 
George McCullough dedicated most of his professional life to educating thousands of South Bend school children, first as a counsellor and then as long-time principal of South Bend, Indiana’s Washington High School. He grew up on South Bend’s west side in an area sometimes called LaSalle Park, sometimes called “Beck’s Lake.” In the first half of the…
 
Ruth Tulchinsky was a young Jewish woman living in the shadows of the Holocaust. At the age of 16, fortunately, she and members of her immediate family managed to escape Nazi Germany and arrived in South Bend. Ruth had experienced life in Hitler’s Germany, but did not expect to see elements of it here. Yet, she did. The divisions between white and …
 
Jose Arevalo was five when his parents brought him and his nine siblings from Mexico to the United States. They were migrant farm workers, chasing harvesting jobs from Texas through Michigan and Minnesota. He enrolled in school but, without knowing English and without support from his school, he failed the first grade. Luckily, a teacher who spoke …
 
Helen Pope grew up on the west side of South Bend, Indiana during the 1920s. She watched her city grow and change over the eighty years she lived here. She earned a nursing license from Ivy Tech and a degree in early childhood development from IU South Bend. She worked as a nurse at the old Northern Indiana Children’s hospital, back when they segre…
 
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