Home » Indiana » Martinsville

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

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



Basic Information

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

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Don't Know
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
Probably Not, Although Still Very Few Black People

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1880 1131
1890 2626 53
1910 4259 22
1920 4895
1930 4962 4
1940 5009 2
1950 5991 4
1960 7525 0
1970 9723 1
1980 11311 2
1990 11677 0
2000 11698 11 21 31 116 2
2010 11828 24 5

Method of Exclusion

  • Threat of Violence
  • Violence Towards Newcomers
  • Private Bad Behavior
  • Reputation

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


It has been suggested that Martinsville is the national headquarters of the KKK, although I have suggested the KKK isn’t really very organized nationally.

Martinsville has a reputation as an all-white town hostile to blacks, largely due to the 1968 murder of 21-year old Carol Jenkins, a black woman.

Martinsville has received much media attention, including an article in the New Yorker by Mark Singer, entitled “Who Killed Carol Jenkins?%u201D (1/7/2002, 24-28).

The behavior of Martinsville sports fans warranted coverage in Sports Illustrated in an article entitle “Martinsville’s Sad Season,” 2/23/1998, page 24:
“On Jan. 23 [1998], as Bloomington High North’s racially mixed team got off the bus upon arriving for a game at Martinsville, about a dozen Martinsville students greeted the visitors with a barrage of racial epithets.” “‘Here come the darkies.'” “During the junior varsity game several Bloomington players were bitten by Martinsville players. During the varsity game a member of Martinsville’s all-white team elbowed a black North player in the stomach so fiercely that the player began vomiting. As he was doubled over on the sidelines, a fan yelled, ‘That nigger’s spitting on the floor! Get his ass off the floor.’ According to a report that Bloomington North filed with the Indians High School Athletics Association, epithets like ‘baboon’ and threats such as ‘You’re not safe in this town’ continued after the game, which Martinsville won 69-66. ‘It wasn’t just nasty, says one Bloomington North fan, an adult who was in attendance, ‘it was downright scary.'” So they were sanctioned: cannot host conference games in any sport for a year.
“This wasn’t the first time that charges of racist behavior were leveled against one of Martinsville’s teams. In the last year at least two high schools in central Indiana have dropped the Artesians from their schedules after games were marred by brawls and racial slurs. School administrators in Martinsville … were unwilling to discuss the incident or its aftermath.”

A Martinsville resident writes: %u201CMartinsville Whites will deny there is racism in that town to their last breath. It is their belief that since the murder that Blacks have stayed away. It isn’t anything that has actively been done to keep them out, it is more that they don’t want to come there. Amounts to the same thing to me.%u201D

A student from Martinsville adds that %u201Cmost residents are not racist, but want diversity.%u201D

An Indiana resident recalls
%u201CMy husband, and I were in the market for a home. With him working in Franklin, IN and me out here in Greencastle, we wanted something in the middle Martinsville fell dead center on the map. Being from NY and not very familiar with Indy, we were unaware of the stigma attached to the little town. We spent an evening driving around the village, which seemed very nice, and found a beautiful house that we decided to call on. I made arrangements with the real estate lady to view the house, my husband unfortunately couldn’t come with. The house seemed nice, as was the agent, but the neighbor%u2019s dogs (3 pit bulls) never stopped barking, leaving me a bit turned off. When the tour was complete, she told me I was more than welcome to call her with any questions or concerns and gave me her business card. When I took out my wallet to put away her card, my picture fold fell out onto the bar and opened up to a portrait of some very good friends good friends who happen to be engaged and Japanese and African American. She looked at the photo, put her finger on the very corner of the picture and turned it slowly toward her, like it could jump up and bite her if she made any sudden movements! Anyway, she said to me: “Oh, you associate with those kind of people?” She said it in a bit of a short tone…Anyway, I turned her business card around to her in the same manner and said: “Yup.” And left.
Meanwhile, my husband told some folks at his plant I was viewing a house in Martinsville that day. He was quickly informed that was a bad idea. Needless to say we built a home in Indy!!%u201D

There also are many articles about Carol Jenkins, and the arrest of her killer 34 years later.
See, for example, Bruce C. Smith%u2019s articles in The Indianapolis Star, May 19, 2002:
%u201CUntil recently, accountant Mary Ann Land never had been outspoken about the racist reputation that she thinks is unfairly hung on her hometown of Martinsville.
However, since the arrest of a suspect in the 1968 killing of a young black woman in Martinsville, Land and other natives of the nearly all white city are starting to speak out about erasing the stigma they think is unfair. But leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People don’t believe the arrest cleanses the city.
Carol Marie Jenkins, a 21 year old black woman from Rushville, was killed while selling Collier encyclopedias door to door along Morgan Street in Martinsville on Sept. 16, 1968.
Kenneth C. Richmond, 70, who lives in an Indianapolis nursing home, was arrested May 8 and charged with murder. Richmond is white.
His daughter, who was 7 years old at the time of the killing, came forward and told police she saw him do it.
Pastors are preaching that it may be the beginning of a healing process a softening of hardened hearts. But it may not happen quickly.
“We are not at the end of the road, but at a fork in the road,” said the Rev. J. Christy Wareham of the Presbyterian Church in Martinsville.
“Does racism happen in other places besides Martinsville?” asked Land, who was born and raised in Martinsville. “Yes, it does. Have there been bigots here? Yes. Are there bigots here now? Not so many. There are ignorant people and bad people everywhere. But for 33 years, our community has been the focus of national attention because of this act (Jenkins’ murder).
“An article in the paper today reminds me that the press won’t let up. How long will we have to live like this? Probably for the rest of my life, and I hate that. I don’t think it’s fair. If I look at the whole world, I have to ask why did this happen to my hometown? Maybe it is to make this community a little stronger.”
Martinsville Mayor Shannon Buskirk said Richmond’s arrest finally can bring peace and relief to the Jenkins family.
But he also declared May 8 as “a great day for Martinsville” because that was the day the world learned that a stranger passing through the city may have been responsible for the killing, not a native.
Since Richmond’s arrest, Buskirk’s message has received worldwide media coverage.
There have been long reports on national television network news shows and National Public Radio. Radio stations from Syracuse, N.Y., to the British Broadcasting Corp. in London have made it a talk show topic.
National newspapers including The New York Times have sent reporters to Martinsville.
The Jenkins family has hired Sherma Wise of Media Wise Communications Group in Indianapolis to screen requests for media interviews.
She agreed to interviews with CBS and People magazine but declined NBC’s “Dateline” because she had already agreed to appear on a segment of “60 Minutes.” Wise is noncommittal about book deals.
Buskirk’s and others’ attempts to quell the racist legend of Martinsville don’t satisfy Roderick E. Bohannan, president of the Greater Indianapolis branch of the NAACP.
The NAACP sent a telegram soon after Jenkins’ murder asking for a federal investigation and suggesting Jenkins’ murder may have been a hate crime similar to other killings of blacks in the South.
“I saw the comments from the mayor that this arrest takes the albatross from around the city’s neck because it was a transient,” Bohannan said. “While it may be an important step in solving the crime for the family, it does not solve it completely for the city.
“I know they are trying to make strides,” he added.
But there have been other episodes.
In recent years, Martinsville High School was banned by the Indiana High School Athletic Association from holding home sporting events for a year after alleged racial name calling around a visiting team’s bus.
Martinsville Assistant Police Chief Dennis Nail wrote a controversial letter published in the local paper after the Sept. 11 attacks complaining about “queers,” “Buddy Buddha,” and “Hadji Hindu.”
“Will this arrest exonerate Martinsville? It would be nice if it would, but I don’t think we can fully expect that,” said high school French teacher Lynnette Liberge, who led a drive that gathered hundreds of local signatures for an advertisement in rebuttal to Nail’s letter.
“What I hope is that people will feel more comfortable if they have been concerned about coming to our city,” she said.
“One of my hopes is that people from both inside and outside of Martinsville can begin to talk about this. Martinsville may be an interesting case study, but it is no different from a lot of other little towns in America.”

Another Indiana University student recalls:
%u201CI was an RA at Indiana University in 1986. During the first week of school I was meeting my residents when I was told by several of them that one of the new freshman on the floor had a very painful experience on moving in day. She was driving down from Northern Indiana and stopped in Martinsville to get gas. Whoever was working at the gas station refused her service. So unthinkable in 1986, but Martinsville is a scary place!

I should also add that I did my student teaching in Martinsville. Upon learning about the environment in the town, I decided to conduct a semester long teaching series based on the book “Free to be You and Me” (which examines from a child’s view gender issues, racism, ageism etc.) I was teaching first graders. My supervising teacher was VERY supportive of my desire to educate six year olds around these issues. She said it was highly likely we would receive complaints from parents but let me do it anyway. Parents NEVER complained. In fact, they really embraced me and their kids were terrific. I only share this because it’s easy to look at a town with a history like Martinsville and assume it is filled only with evil, hate filled people. I also mention it because my guess is the six year olds were most open to learning a different perspective!%u201D

KKK members were still distributing publications in Martinsville as late as 2011. However, the distributors faced a littering citation, causing a small wave of controversy among the community.
Martinsville City Court Judge Mark Peden found the man “not guilty of a littering charge” after dropping off copies of The Crusader, the KKK publication, to businesses in downtown Martinsville. The court concluded this on the basis of not wanting to go into first amendment rights and instead focused on littering. Peden stated that %u201CThis is a littering case where the state alleged trash was placed on private property,%u201D and %u201CState law defines what trash is. That definition does not include newspapers.%u201D Therefore, based on the law’s definition of trash, the KKK member was allowed to distribute his material where pleased on the basis that “people may not approve of the material but there is a constitutional right to hand it out.”
see http://indianalawblog.com/archives/2011/10/ind_decisions_m_481.html for more info

One individual who recently passed through Martinsville (4.23.2013) read graffiti that did not appear to be old on a building that said, “KKK kill all Niggers!”