Indiana Avenue Photographer captured history


Notes Historic Indianapolis, “Indiana Avenue, the diagonal street angling northwest from the heart of the city, has historically been known as Indianapolis’s African-American business and cultural hub. The first black-owned businesses appeared in the 500 block of Indiana Avenue as early as 1865 including Samuel G. Smother’s grocery, peddler/grocer William Franklin, and The Indianapolis Leader, founded in 1879 as the first African American-owned newspaper in Indianapolis.

Despite all the history made on this important corridor, it is difficult to locate photographs of many of the clubs and businesses. A few black photographers worked on Indiana Avenue, including Emmett I. Brown, Jr. The Indianapolis Recorder also documented life in the area. Luckily both collections are preserved at the Indiana Historical Society, but neither capture the day-to-day life of the Indiana Avenue area as well as the images made by O. James Fox, a young former journalist who volunteered with the American Friends Service Committee. When stationed in Indianapolis in 1945, his first job included documenting the slum areas on the west side for the Flanner House, a community center. He continued photographing the area in both black-and-white and color as he later worked for the Flanner House and the Marion County Health Department. After moving away, he donated his images and poems about his time near Indiana Avenue to the Indiana Historical Society where over 150 of his views of homes, churches and people can be viewed online.

In 1956, Fox photographed this view looking northwest on Indiana Avenue toward the Madam Walker Building and Theatre. The two-story brick buildings housed May’s Liquor Store, Royal Grill, Oriental Cafe, Mrs. Willa Nicholson’s Variety Store, Good Samaritan Rescue Mission, Mrs. Sarah Barlow’s Beauty School, Wides Grocery, Hook’s Drugs, and several beauty and barber shops.”

I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified