Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays noon to 1 p.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

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Feb. 15 show

Attucks High School history

Community pride is evident as fans of the Attucks Tigers cheer on their basketball team, circa 1950s. Image courtesy Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis Recorder Collection.During the 1920s, white segregationists in Indianapolis pushed for the creation of the city's only all-black high school. Unlikely as it may have seemed to many at the time, Attucks High School emerged to be a source of black pride for generations of Hoosiers.

As Hoosier History Live! salutes Black History Month, we will explore the history of the high school attended by future legends, including basketball superstar Oscar Robertson; jazz musician David Baker; opera star Angela Brown and members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the country's first African-American military aviators.

For this look at Attucks - which opened in 1927, became a junior high/middle school during the 1980s and '90s and now is once again a high school, with a magnet program for Indianapolis Public Schools students interested in medical careers - Nelson will be joined in studio by three guests:

  • Stanley Warren.Stanley Warren, an Attucks alum (and former teacher) who became an administrator at DePauw University. Now retired, Dr. Warren is the author of Crispus Attucks High School: Hail to the Green, Hail to the Gold (Donning Co. Publishers, 1998). "The story of Crispus Attucks High School has many ups and downs," he writes, "but its place in history can never be questioned."
  • Pat Payne, director of the Crispus Attucks Museum and of the IPS Center for Multicultural Education. During a long tenure as an IPS teacher, Pat served as president of the Indianapolis Education Association in the 1980s.
  • And Wilma Moore, senior archivist for African-American history at the Indiana Historical Society. Wilma, an Attucks alum, has been a popular guest on several Hoosier History Live! shows.

According to several accounts, IPS officials initially wanted to name the all-black school Thomas Jefferson High School. Many black leaders objected both to the creation of the segregated school (African-Americans had been attending Shortridge High School, Manual High School and other IPS schools) as well as to the proposed name. Wilma Moore.School leaders eventually decided the namesake should be Crispus Attucks, an African-American who protested the British and is believed to have been the first American killed during the Boston Massacre of 1770.

By the time the new school opened, Dr. Warren writes, the concept of a separate high school for black students was being explored by other Indiana cities with sizable African-American communities.

"By 1929, both Gary Roosevelt High School in the northern part of the state and Evansville Lincoln High School in the south replicated the form and function of Crispus Attucks High School," according to his book.

Some history facts about the school, which is on the National Register of Historic Places:

  • With its grand entryway, elegant auditorium and other features, Attucks High School quickly became a social center for the African-American community and a destination for visiting celebrities. Ten years after the school opened, it was visited by track star Jesse Owens, the gold medalist in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
  • The school's Tigers basketball teams, with stars such as Robertson and other future pro players, dominated the high school basketball tournament in the mid-1950s. Coached by Ray Crowe and clad in green and gold uniforms, the Tigers won back-to-back state championships. Pat Payne.With the initial victory in 1955, Attucks became the country's first all-black high school to capture a state title in any sport.
  • In the late 1960s, Attucks became the country's first all-black high school to be integrated at its original site, according to accounts in The Indianapolis News.

In addition to exhibits about the school's history, the Crispus Attucks Museum celebrates African-American history with vintage photos, artwork and memorabilia, including musical instruments played during the heyday of jazz clubs on nearby Indiana Avenue. During a Hoosier History Live! show in March 2008, future jazz icon David Baker shared anecdotes about sneaking into Indiana Avenue nightspots in the late 1940s when he was an Attucks student - and underage - by resorting to a fake mustache and a beret to appear older.

Because African-Americans with post-graduate degrees had limited employment options for decades after Attucks opened, many often joined the faculty at Attucks. As a result, Attucks became known for its outstanding faculty members, who were recruited across the country.

According to an article by our guest, Dr. Warren, in Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History magazine, the faculty when the school opened in 1927 included Mary Stokes, a "brilliant mathematician" who almost had been named valedictorian at Shortridge High School; she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Butler University. In addition to teaching math at Attucks, she taught Greek and sponsored the Poetry Club.The 1934 class officers of Crispus Attucks High School. Image courtesy Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis Recorder Collection.The school's first principal, Mathias Nolcox, earned a doctorate from Harvard.

Ironically, given the school's eventual triumphs in basketball and other sports, Attucks "was built without a real gym," as the Indianapolis Star noted in a 2005 story on the 50th anniversary of the 1955 basketball championship. Instead, the school's auditorium included a combination stage/gym.

Initially, Attucks even was denied membership in the Indiana High School Athletics Association because it was not considered a "public" school - since white students were not included. Limited in the early years primarily to playing teams from other African-American high schools, Attucks players endured long, exhausting bus trips across the state. Attucks finally was allowed to compete in the IHSAA tournament in the 1940s.

Also during the 1940s, some Attucks alums were Tuskegee Airmen pilots in World War II. Harry Brooks, a member of the Class of '47, became a general in the U.S. Army. Another member of the Class of '47, John W. Lee, became the first black commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy.

History Mystery

Illustrious graduates of Attucks High School who have been Hoosier History Live! guests include a member of the Class of 1953 who enjoyed a long career with the Harlem Globetrotters.

A 1960 program for the Harlem Globetrotters.At Attucks, he and teammates such as Willie Gardner helped kick off what our guest, Stanley Warren, describes as the school's "basketball golden age" by helping take the Tigers to the state finals in 1951, where they were defeated by Evansville Reitz High School. Two years later, he was named the state's outstanding player, becoming Indiana's "Mr. Basketball" of 1953. That was followed by basketball triumphs at Indiana University.

Next came a 27-year career touring the world with the Globetrotters, first as a barnstorming player then in public relations.

In recent years, he has been an Indianapolis-based businessman and motivational speaker.

Question: Who is he?

The call-in number is (317) 788-3314. Please do not call into the show until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air, and please do not try to win the prize if you have won any other prize on WICR during the last two months.

The prize is five tickets to the Crispus Attucks Museum, courtesy of the Crispus Attucks Museum, as well as gift certificate to MacNiven's in downtown Indy on Massachusetts Avenue, courtesy of Visit Indy.

It's on!

Anniversary soiree on Thursday, Feb. 27 - Be there!

Hoosier History Live 6th anniversary banner.

Hoosier History Live! has been on the air for six years. Let's celebrate!

When: Thursday, Feb. 27, between 5 and 7:30 p.m.

Where: Indiana Landmarks Center, 1201 N. Central Ave. in Indianapolis.

What: Meet and mingle with fellow history lovers. History Mystery, live from the Cook Theater stage, hosted by Nelson Price. Remarks from the podium by former Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut. Our event host is Indiana Landmarks. Cash bar (beer and wine).

This is a complimentary event; however, if you wish, you are welcome to make a voluntary contribution by using the "Donate" button at the bottom of the RSVP page, or donations will gratefully be accepted at the party.

We look forward to seeing you on Feb. 27!

Click here to RSVP for this event. (Please disregard if you have already RSVP'd to this invitation.)

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer

Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant

Joan Hostetler, Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, Dana Waddell, advisors


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Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Twitter logo for Hoosier History Live.Acknowledgments to Monomedia, Visit Indy, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Heritage Photo & Research Services, Derrick Lowhorn and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorships and individual contributions. We do not receive any government funding. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially. Also, see our Twitter feed and our Facebook page for regular updates.

Feb. 22 show

'Ask Nelson' - and Andrea Neal, too

Once again, Hoosier History Live! will turn the tables on our host, author/historian Nelson Price, open the phone lines and give our listeners an opportunity to question the interviewer who calls himself "a garbage can of useless Hoosier trivia." Just as with previous, all call-in shows, Nelson will be joined by a distinguished co-host.

Host and author Nelson Price signs a copy of Indianapolis Then and Now for fellow author Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge at the 2013 Holiday Author Fair in Indy. Hoosier History Live photo.Not only is Andrea Neal a syndicated columnist and a member of the State Board of Education, she is a history teacher and a former editorial page editor at The Indianapolis Star. Andrea teaches at St. Richard's Episcopal School and has been writing a popular column about Indiana history - called "Indiana at 200" - as we advance toward the bicentennial of the Hoosier state in 2016. She also is an adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation and a board member of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site.

So with these two history buffs poised to take questions from listeners (and question each other) you are encouraged to call the WICR-FM - the number is (317) 788-3314 - and ask away about Hoosier history.

Like Nelson, Andrea grew up in Indianapolis and is descended from a long line of Hoosiers; both Nelson and Andrea are board members of the Society of Indiana Pioneers, a non-profit that celebrates the state's heritage and was founded by descendants of early settlers.

In terms of Hoosier history, Nelson's areas of expertise are famous Hoosiers (both historic and contemporary figures) and Indianapolis city history. His books include Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman (Hawthorne Publishing) and Indianapolis Then and Now (Thunder Bay Press), a visual history about his hometown.

Andrea Neal.Some of Andrea's recent "Indiana at 200" columns have focused on topics that we also have explored on Hoosier History Live! shows, including the utopian communities that attempted to flourish in New Harmony; the wine-making heritage in Switzerland County (it is believed to have been the site of the first successful winery in the entire country) and the boyhood of Abe Lincoln in what's now Spencer County.

Fun fact: In addition to last week's show about young Abe's relationships with his father, mother and stepmother, we did a program in February 2009 about Lincoln's youth. Nelson's studio guests then included Andrea and two of her eighth-grade students at St. Richard's who had immersed themselves in the early years of the 16th president.

Other recent columns written by Andrea have focused on William Henry Harrison, the first governor of the Indiana Territory in the early 1800s (decades later, he was elected U.S. president) and the bloody Battle of Tippecanoe, in which soldiers under Harrison's command defeated Shawnee forces led by the Prophet, the controversial brother of legendary leader Tecumseh.

So this is your opportunity to call in and ask questions or share insights about those topics and others related to our state's rich heritage. Nelson's book Indiana Legends, now in its 4th printing and 7th edition, features profiles of more than 160 notables, ranging from frontier figures such as Mother Theodore Guerin (a Catholic nun from France who founded orphanages, schools and the academy that became St. Mary of the Woods College near Terre Haute), who was named Indiana's first saint, to contemporary figures including Hoosier astronauts, Olympic athletes and artists.

Nelson and Andrea worked together for several years at The Indianapolis Star. Before that, he was a feature writer/columnist for The Indianapolis News, and Andrea was a Statehouse reporter for United Press International. So these two Hoosier history buffs began journalism careers at almost exactly the same time.

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