Home » Indiana » Huntington

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.

Huntington

Indiana

Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Strongly Democratic
Unions, Organized Labor?
Don’t Know

Sundown Town Status

Confirmed Sundown Town?
Surely
Was there an ordinance?
Don't Know
Sign?
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
1919
Still Sundown?
Surely Not

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1860
1870
1880
1890 7308 16
1900
1910 10272 7
1920 14000 0
1930 13420 1
1940 13903 0
1950
1960
1970 16217 18
1980 16202 31
1990 16389 33
2000 17450 37 78 79 196 9
2010
2020

Method of Exclusion

  • Threat of Violence
  • Zoning
  • Reputation

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black

Comments

email 2/2008

In April 2007 Huntington University wanted Huntington to declare itself an inclusive city. It did.

Huntington restored an old slave house said to have been used to capture runaway slaves and transport them back to the south. September 28, 1985, dedication of the Lambdin P. Milligan Slave House. Milligan was a sympathizer to the South, a member of the %u201CKnights of the Golden Circle,%u201D and used his house to hold slaves until he could return them back to their “owners.” He also attempted an armed uprising, and was arrested in 1864 for treason by Federal authorities. Milligan claimed illegal imprisonment (the military didn’t have the right to try him for any alleged crime while the civil courts were functioning), and was set free. Acc. to a local account, “He was welcomed back in Huntington with applause because justice was done: the wrongfully accused was set free.”

Huntington had 33 blacks in 1990 and 74 in 2000, but that may include college students, etc.
County had 69 blacks incl. 13 households in 2000.
During the race riots of the 1960s, and particularly following Martin Luther King’s assassination, the owner of a store that sold guns would get phone calls warning him of black “motorcycle gangs” on their way to Huntington from Ft Wayne to attack the all white town as well as his business to steal the guns. No attack ever came but it illustrates the paranoia.

One Huntington resident accompanies students to larger cities in Indiana. Students ask questions like, will we get mugged? “That black (or as frequently, “colored”) guy has on a red t shirt, is he in a gang?” Or, “I saw a black guy, is this neighborhood safe?”. Is that guy a rapper? And just generalized stupid behavior, fake ghetto accents, caricaturized walks and behavior. I am still surprised that I need to tell these kids that the term “colored” is considered offensive. And several years ago, I had to tell kids specifically that “nigger” was never acceptable. After twenty years of my work, I discovered that if I didn’t remind them of that before we went to a “big” city that they would use those kinds of terms and use them loudly. Or they would ask an African American what gang they were in. Or just point and laugh out the bus window. I said that I think that growing up in an all white community is detrimental for the white kids. I believe that that kind of upbringing allows people to think of minorities as an ‘other’. It allows you to suspend your normal respect for people. Some of these kids don’t see a person walking down the street, they see what amounts to a character. They would never consider being so disrespectful to someone, they just haven’t thought about what they are doing as disrespectful because they are seeing a unique ‘other’ and not just the guy down the street.
Huntington County had a sizable migrant community and I think that I know why Mexicans didn’t count. In Huntington, they were transitory. Hispanics only lived in the area for part of each year. As such, they didn’t present a threat to change the community. Those few families that choose to stay year round were accepted (at least a little) because they were known before they took up permanent residence.

According to a former Huntington resident, “Huntington was a “sundown” town. If an African American family drove through, since the route took them down the main street of Huntington, there was always a policeman on the lookout, who would stop them and tell them to get out of town now. Yet, when I was a boy (1920s-1930s) there was a black couple (husband/wife) who were servants to William Schacht, owner of a rubber plant in town. They lived in the Schacht house but their movements were circumscribed. They couldn’t go downtown, a few blocks away, without problems. There was also another elderly black man living there%u2014Rags (of course), who washed windows in the downtown area. He, too, was tolerated but watched.%u201D

A Marion resident writes regarding Huntington:
%u201CIn the early 70’s Marion junior high school students were denied service at a Huntington McDonalds. I was not present, but participated in a faculty protest of the matter. At that time, we were told by black parents that they did not want there children to go to Huntington after dark because blacks were not allowed there.
As late as this year, Marion High School athletes reported racial slurs form Huntington fans and that local officials refused to respond. Again I was told by local blacks of Huntington’s “sundown tradition.” Also in the early 70’s for some unknown reason it was decided to have a faculty party at a German restaurant in Huntington called the “Heidelberg” (what else?). Black staff members were extremely apprehensive about going due to the city’s reputation for being a sundown city. I accompanied a black woman to the event and she expressed great anxiety about being in that city after dark. It must be said that no incident occurred at that time.
I also remembered that local barbers were not allowed to cut the hair of African Americans. The exception was African students at the local college. I recently got my hair cut and my barber had cut hair in Huntington, Indiana (my hometown) in the early 1960’s. He had previously told me about the strength of the barber’s union in Huntington at the time. I asked him if he remembered such a rule. “Oh yes,” he said. “my boss told me not to let any ‘coloreds’ in the shop but that John Labor was okay.” “You won’t have to worry about it though,” his boss said, “we don’t have any here anyway.” John Labor was a good family friend, an African student and last I knew a school principal in Sierra Leone. I guess I was a little surprised to have the rumor confirmed.
If I were to ask locals today whether Huntington and Gas City were home to white flight, I would be regarded with astonishment by residents of both cities in that it is so patently obvious.
I have personally seen the pain caused to children and adults by the bigotry in action. Marion, as you may know, also has a very bad record on race matters but sundown is not part of it. I also have run across a 1919 article form the Marion paper which reports that 300 residents of Huntington petitioned the city board of works to expel all black persons from the city. I looked in the Huntington papers for the period while I found reports on the board of works, I could find no mention of the petition.%u201D

July 2007
When I was growing up in Fort Wayne, my grandpa used to tell me that Huntington, Indiana had a sign until the late 50’s that said “Nigger, you don’t live here so don’t stay around to see the sun set”. Other old men talked about it too, and when I was a student at Indiana University’s Fort Wayne campus in the late 1990’s there was an old professor who had grown up in Fort Wayne who told us about the sign at Huntington.

An employee at Huntington University expressed that Huntington is achieving progress and attempting to become more inclusive. A task force promoting diversity has been devised, entitled The Harmony Initiative Action Plan.