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Portion of Indiana Avenue renamed for Madam C.J. Walker

Indianapolis honors Black icon with four-block section in front of the Walker Theatre
Madam C.J. Walker Memorial Way in Indianapolis.
Posted at 10:53 PM, Oct 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-20 23:20:20-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The Madam C.J. Walker Legacy Center and Indiana Avenue are vital pieces of Indianapolis' Black history. The city immortalized Walker by naming the street in front of the complex in her honor.

Indiana Avenue between Senate Avenue and Blackford Street was renamed Madam C.J. Walker Memorial Way Friday night.


A'Lelia Bundles, Walker's great-great-granddaughter, unveiled the sign in a ceremony outside of the Walker Center.

"She was an entrepreneur who wanted people to not only make money for themselves, but to contribute to their communities," Bundles said. "This building standing here reminds us of what things could be."

The new name signifies a new era for the street and the center itself.

Walker Center President Kristian Stricklen said the building is now debt-free after selling a neighboring piece of land. The organization used the money to create an endowment and will soon build a rooftop terrace.


"We're able to bring life back into this place," Stricklen said. "This space deserves that."

The Walker Center, built in 1927, was the headquarters for the hair care empire Walker left behind after her death in 1919. It is one of the last reminders of Indiana Avenue's time as the center of Black culture in Indianapolis.

"I go back to the 1960s," said Eric Durrett, a musician who grew up nearby. "I remember my father used to take me to some of the clubs when he wasn't supposed to."


Urban renewal in the 1970s and 1980s destroyed most of the Walker Center's neighboring buildings, but the city is reinvesting in the road with an expansion of the Cultural Trail.

"We can't lose our history," said Durrett. "It's part of who we are."

Bundles said a new round of investment on Indiana Avenue would be the ultimate testament to her ancestor's legacy.

"We need to blend the rich heritage that was here with what can happen in the future so we can support businesses," Bundles said. "We're nostalgic in a way that we want to celebrate, but we don't want to be nostalgic about the economic development."