INDIANAPOLIS — Monday night, Sampson Levingston gave his 290th neighborhood walking tour. Started in June 2020, Levingston's business, Through2Eyes, takes curious Hoosiers on walking tours through different neighborhoods in the city.
Monday's tour was along Indiana Avenue coinciding with celebrations and events marking Juneteenth.
"If we learn about our city, we can make better decisions that impact the people who live here and the people who come here in the future," Levingston said.
For decades, Indiana Avenue was the epicenter of Black Indianapolis. However, the development of the interstate, the building of IUPUI, and desegregation did away with the Black prosperity that once existed there.
"Where these Black neighborhoods, these schools, churches were, in the process of our city growing and improving and progressing, we lost a lot of the Black neighborhoods," Levingston said.
The tour coincided with celebrations and events marking Juneteenth. A Federal Holiday since June 2021that recognizes the day in 1865 when African Americans held in slavery in Galveston, Texas were told they had been freed more than two years earlier by the Emancipation Proclamation.
“I’m important for us to hone in on that history, but bring it closer to home," Tierra Bush, president of the Exchange at the Indianapolis Urban League, said. She took part in and helped organize the tour. Bush says increased awareness about Juneteenth allows for more conversations about the history of Indiana Avenue.
“It’s important to know, not only the residents here, not only the buildings here but to also learn about the businesses no longer here. The bars and all of the businesses that used to serve our people, barbershops, and beauty salons. This used to be a thriving community," Bush said. "Understanding where Black Indianapolis has its roots I think will help us be better individuals and servants to the city as we continue to spread the message of not only Juneteenth but also Black History."
Along the tour, Levingston pointed out areas where buildings used to exist and highlighted the history of buildings like the Madame CJ Walker Legacy Center. Despite this tour being focused on Black History in Indianapolis, Levingston reiterates learning about all history is important for everyone.
"Indianapolis is a place for you. There’s going to be places and spaces for you that you may not have heard about, but if you learn and look, you’re always going to find them," Levingston said.
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