In 1846, a group of anti-slavery Quakers and free Blacks in Randolph County joined together to establish Union Literary Institute, one of the first schools to offer higher-level education to all students, regardless of race or gender. At the time, Indiana law prohibited Black students from attending public schools, and the institute offered one of the only options for people of color to pursue secondary education.
Students came from nearby settlements and from farther afield—Indianapolis, Cincinnati, even Tennessee—to study geography, math, Latin, and agriculture. To pay for their education, students 14 and over were required to work four hours a day on the institute’s sprawling farm. By the 1850s, the Institute had achieved national recognition, even earning praise from Frederick Douglass.
Today, all that remains to represent the proud institution is a partially collapsed building in the middle of a field.
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