Crispus Attucks: A great American story

The building located on 1140 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, received its name from Crispus Attucks, the first person killed in the Boston Massacre, in Boston Massachusetts, who is widely considered the first American casualty in the American Revolutionary War. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – In 1927, Crispus Attucks High School opened its doors. Manufacturers of the red brick building designed it to house African-American students only. At the time, the state of Indiana pushed to create segregation within its school system. Thus, the birth of Crispus Attucks.

The building located on 1140 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, received its name from Crispus Attucks, the first person killed in the Boston Massacre, in Boston Massachusetts, who is widely considered the first American casualty in the American Revolutionary War. At the time, there was a strong push to name the school after an American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, but parents in the African-American community balked at the suggestion, because Jefferson had been a well documented slave owner. The community decided on Attucks.

On the first day of classes, administrators expected about 1,000 students; however, 1,300 students showed up on the very first day.

Fueled with not feeling wanted, Attucks thrived, and produced some of the country’s greatest minds, including history makers, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and the list goes on.

“Attucks is the greatest American story,” said Crispus Attucks Museum Curator, Robert Chester.

Attucks success also navigated into the world of high school sports, where in 1955, the school’s basketball team, became the first all-black school in the nation to win a state title. Oscar Robertson, also known as the “The Big O,” led Attucks to back-to-back state titles. Robertson went on to become a 12-time NBA All-Star, 11-time member of the All-NBA Team, MVP, and an NBA Champion.

Crispus Attucks still holds that history, inside the Crispus Attucks Museum attached to the historic school. Inside the museum, you will find four galleries, and more than 70 exhibits. There are history lessons on the school’s history, local, state, and even the national stage.

“You are standing in truth, unadulterated, uncut truth, which is very rare,” said Chester.

Photos of our country’s past and present are found in the building.

A photo of Charlie Wiggins aligns the wall. Wiggins was a race car driver and mechanic. He won the prestigious Gold and Glory race four times between 1926 and 1935. At the time African-American’s were barred from preventing in major races likes the Indianapolis 500, so Gold and Glory was created for race car drivers of color.

Wiggins nicknamed the Negro Speed King, received respect in many racing circles. Bill Cummings, a white race car driver, sought his skill as a mechanic and asked him to work on his race team for the 1934 Indianapolis 500, Wiggins agreed, but because of segregation, he had to pretend to be a janitor just to get in the garage to work on the race car.

There are also pics of Madam CJ Walker’s legendary run as an entrepreneur, she became one of the wealthiest African-American women of her time. Walker an entrepreneur, made her fortune by developing a line of beauty and hair products for black women. Before her death, Walker began work on her Walker Building and Theater, the building was completed by Walker’s daughter A’Lelia Walker, and opened in 1927. The theater would later be the hub for entertainment and businesses along the historic Indiana Avenue.

“It is important that we get history 100 percent accurate,” said Chester.

Anyone can pay a visit to the Crispus Attucks Museum from Tuesday through Friday, from  8 a.m.-1 p.m., you can also schedule a visit by calling 317.226.4000.

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