Many of Indiana’s counties named for men tied to slavery

Welcome to the State of Indiana - Road sign along Interstate 70 towards St. Louis, MO.. (Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

One-third of Indiana’s 92 counties are named for men who had ties to slavery or supported otherwise racist policies and an Indiana University professor says that reflects slavery’s inescapable legacy across the country.

Indiana has prided itself in being a place that honors individual liberty since it was a territory, but the state’s record still should be critically examined, Eric Sandweiss, a professor in the department of history at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus, told The Indianapolis Star.

Indiana’s counties were named in the early-to mid-1800s. Sandweiss noted that honoring historical figures in name essentially reflects the sentiment and understanding regarding them at that point in time.

Sandweiss said revisiting names and removing monuments is Americans’ way of taking a step forward.

“We may be reversing a decision that made sense to one group of people at one time, but we’re all engaged in the same adventure,” he said, “and that is to realize this experiment, this vision of having a free state and a free republic.”

George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis has catalyzed a global reckoning to reevaluate places and things that commemorate people whose actions today are no longer considered commendable.

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who was handcuffed, died May 25 after a white police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

Sandweiss noted that in 1851, the authors of Indiana’s constitution inserted a now-expunged article that stipulated that “no negro or mulatto shall come into or settle in the State.”

“If we’re going to take pride in being Hoosiers — as we should — then that means that we have to vow to have an open mind, and a willingness to learn about the places where we fell short in the past,” he said.