Exploring Madison's rich history includes exploring and recognizing its Black History. Over the past century, Madison has earned prestigious distinctions such as being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the establishment of Historic Madison Incorporated, being chosen as one of three to launch the Main Street Project, and receiving the designation as a National Historic Landmark District, among other credentials. These organizations and designations play a crucial role in preserving not just Madison's architectural treasures but also the narratives of the Madisonians whose contributions have shaped and enriched the fabric of our community.
Originating as a week-long celebration initiated by Carter G. Woodson in 1926, Black History Month has evolved into a month-long observance, fostering a nationwide dialogue on Black history. With its ties to the Underground Railroad, Madison, Indiana, remains committed to narrating the stories of its remarkable citizens—civic leaders, free African Americans, and entrepreneurs. During Black History Month, we honor and share these narratives, contributing to a collective understanding of the impactful history that has shaped our community.
The Georgetown neighborhood in downtown Madison is a primary example of Madison's preservation and continuous dialogue. The Georgetown neighborhood was comprised of free blacks and the working class who settled in the area around the early to mid 1800's. Several residents of this neighborhood later assisted slaves through the network of the Underground Railroad. Today, the neighborhood and its collection of buildings are recognized by the National Park Service as a Network to Freedom District for its documented links to the Underground Railroad. If you are interested in learning more or to taking a tour of the Georgetown neighborhood, contact Historic Madison, Inc. or Visit Madison, Inc.
Madison's Black history does not end with the Georgetown Neighborhood. The Broadway High School was Indiana's first commissioned African American high school. Although the school has since suffered a fire and no longer stands, the Broadway High School alumni descendants actively share memories of attending the school along with connections to black-owned businesses, and resources.
Today, downtown Madison has 1 Black-owned business on Main Street. After opening the brick-and-mortar in 2023, MadArt+ has expanded its retail footprint to include original paintings by local black artist Brenda Shropshire, and hand-crafted jewelry and collectibles curated by Faye Taylor. Both Brenda and Faye are Broadway School Alumni descendants and continue to tell the narratives of their families and friends through the store and Brenda's art. You can shop with MadArt+ in the historic Trolley Barn located on West Main Street.
In acknowledging the current landscape of our downtown, we celebrate the resilience and entrepreneurship of our community. While we currently have one Black-owned business, it is important to honor the legacy of those who have paved the way. We extend gratitude to Melissa (Unique Boutique) and Geri (Just the Word), whose businesses were recently a part of the downtown district. As they embark on their well-deserved retirement and new chapters, we appreciate their years of dedication and contributions to our community.
"At the core of Main Street America's approach to revitalization is a commitment to creating places of shared prosperity, equal access to opportunity, and inclusive engagement..."
Main Street is for everyone. It is all about the people, their commitment, and the community.
Black History Month is an opportunity for us to uplift the black-owned businesses within our district and amplify their voices. This month, we invite you to celebrate the contributions that these Madisonians have made to our community by shopping with black-owned businesses, attending local film festivals and discussions, or supporting local scholarship funds.
Want to join the conversation, support Black-owned businesses, and celebrate Black History Month? Volunteers and community members have organized several opportunities to continue the conversation of Black History Month. Review the 2024 Black History Month Film Festival and Discussions to learn more.
Local and National Resources:
We cannot wait to see you downtown!
Written collaboratively by Sue Livers, Brenda Shropshire, and Austin Sims.
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