The Leora Brown School in Corydon, Indiana is the oldest (and only) standing segregated school for African Americans left in the state.
In the large sun-filled room of this old Harrison County school, one can almost hear the sounds of giggling, of chalk scraping across the board, and a patient teacher gently shushing the children as her shoes clack upon the wood floor.
Leora Brown School in Corydon, Indiana
Students weren’t always segregated. In the 1851 state constitution, public education was open and free to everyone. Although before the 1850s, most children were taught at home.
Indiana began to pass acts in 1853 and 1857 that kept African-American children from attending the public school. A few private schools popped up here and there, but they were certainly not a common sight.
The years passed. In 1869, a law went into action that enabled children to attend segregated public schools. Historically, the schools for African Americans didn’t possess near the resources that other school had and were often overcrowded but it was still better than no school.
Segregated Public School in Corydon, Indiana
The Corydon Colored School of Corydon, Indiana was built in 1891 and graduated its first high school class in 1897. Can you imagine the victory those students (and their parents) must have felt after graduation? What a moment of triumph for everyone involved.
One graduate, Leora Brown, decided to continue her education by attending Eliza Blaker’s Teachers College of Indianapolis, Indiana. Eliza Blaker was ahead of her time.
Her school instructed teachers in her kindergarten program (with its emphasis on happiness and harmony) and didn’t turn anyone away with regards to their gender, race, or socioeconomic background.
It was ahead of its time. What an impact it must have made on anyone who chose to attend. It would have been absolutely life-changing.
Leora Brown returned to Southern Indiana and the Corydon Colored School with her degree in hand and taught for 26 years.
The Corydon Colored School was renamed in honor of the contributions Leora Brown made to improve her community by educating its youngest citizens. Her descendants are responsible for the renovation. What a renovation it is.
They’ve managed to keep the character of the building, keeping it light and bright, while updating the necessary areas to help it serve a purpose today, as an event hall and a historic site.
A section of the original blackboard still stands, capturing a moment in time, for always. Behind the protective cover, it helps to serve as a permanent reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still have yet to go.
As I mentioned above, the Leora Brown School in Corydon, Indiana is both an event hall that may be rented out for small gatherings or groups as well as a historic site open to the public with advanced notice. In other words: please call ahead if you want a tour. You will want to be sure there isn’t a special private event going on that will derail your plans.
A special thank you to Maxine Brown for her time, her wonderful stories, and her passion for preservation and education. The world needs more folks with her level of dedication and commitment.
For more information on the Leora Brown School in Corydon, Indiana, please refer to the historic links below:
- This is Corydon: Attractions: History: Leora Brown School
- Butler University Eliza Blaker Collection
- Marking Hoosier History with the Indiana Historical Bureau
Small Towns: Destinations, not Drive-Thrus. I’m Jessica Nunemaker and THIS is Little Indiana.
Just don’t forget to tell them that Little Indiana sent you.
Leora Brown School
400 East Summit Street
Corydon, Indiana 47112
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