13News presenters joined tour guide Sampson Levingston on tours around Indianapolis to learn more about Circle City’s often overlooked black history.
INDIANAPOLIS — This year, WTHR is recognizing Black History Month by celebrating our city’s diversity — to inform, inspire and positively impact the public.
Indianapolis is full of black stories and people unknowingly pass by every day. Our 13News presenters joined tour guide Sampson Levingston from Through Indiana Eyes. He leads tours around Indianapolis to learn about Circle City’s often overlooked black history.
Jalea Brooks, Angela Buchman, Carlos Diaz, Felicia Lawrence, Chuck Lofton, Julia Moffitt and Scott Swan visited eight historic sites around Indianapolis:
- St. Rita Catholic Church
- St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church
- Jazz master mural
- Bethel AME Church
- Neighborhood Ransom Place
- 500 block of Indiana Avenue
- Senate Avenue YMCA
- Lockefield Gardens
Throughout the month, our team will be sharing what they’ve learned after walking the historic tours with Levingston. Watch for their individual thoughts as these stories air in February, and check back here for summaries of each of the historic sites.
Indianapolis Black History Tour
St. Rita Catholic Church
“My trip on WTHR’s Black History Month tour took Anne Marie Tiernon and I to the historic St. Rita Catholic Church on Dr. Andrew J. Brown Avenue. I had walked past this beautiful church for years, but I didn’t know about its history and importance to the black community in town.
Our guide, Sampson Levingston, said that in 1919 the church – an extension of St. Bridget’s Catholic Church – began meeting in a Knights of Columbus chapel and, after a series of changes, moved at its current location in 1958.
Over the years the church has hosted a school and weekly dances which have attracted hundreds of people.
Even though the neighborhood has changed, the church continues. It still offers weekly worship services, but under the direction of Parish Life Coordinator, Sister Gail Trippett. It also offers other outreach ministries, from courses on breaking the cycle of poverty to helping its participants through the St. Vincent DePaul Society.
Read Chuck’s full reflection on his time on the tour here.
St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church
“If you know me, you know I’m a history buff. I met Sampson at St. John’s Baptist Missionary Church to learn more about his story, and one of the most famous black pastors, Dr. Andrew J. Brown.
Reverend Brown did not start the church, but certainly played a vital role in expanding the congregation and solidifying it as one of the major black churches in segregated Indianapolis. Reverend Brown had such an impact on this area of town and its black community, the street bordering the former and present church is called Dr. Andrew J. Brown Avenue.
Reverend Brown is also the founder of Indiana Black Expo, which still thrives in Indianapolis to this day.
Reverend Brown marched for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, and in 1963 marched with his friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama. In fact, he was at King’s parents’ house the night the civil rights leader was assassinated in April 1968.”
Read Julia’s full reflection on her time on the tour here.
Check out the Near Me feature on WTHR.com and the WTHR news app to find stories about each of these historic sites.