May 17, 2022

Documentary explores history of first public school for Black students in Indianapolis

Ron Lovett, 1971 School 26 graduate, and Andrew N. Hart, CEO of The Oaks Academy. - Taylor Bennett/WFYI

Ron Lovett, 1971 School 26 graduate, and Andrew N. Hart, CEO of The Oaks Academy.

Taylor Bennett/WFYI

John Hope School 26 was one of the first public schools for Black students in Indianapolis. It’s now home to the Oaks Academy, and it is the subject of a new documentary. "The Glories of Our Journey" examines the history and legacy of the school. WFYI’s Taylor Bennett spoke with 1971 alumnus Ron Lovett and Oaks Academy CEO Andrew Hart to learn more.

WFYI's Taylor Bennett: So, Andrew, what about this documentary? How did this project come together?

Oaks Academy CEO Andrew Hart: It came together of a desire of the alumni of School 26 for their legacy not to be forgotten. The story of School 26 is an extraordinary one — of neighborhood, of school, of church, and community. And our concern, as the neighborhood changes as the city changes, that the rich stories that reside in that building would not be passed on to another generation. And this is why Ron and his beloved classmates, Katie Taylor, others, Gerald Harkness, PJ Wilson, and an extraordinary group have come together and create this documentary so that we have an artifact that can be turned to year after year. And part of the Oaks Academy curriculum, part of the library's resources that churches can access to share the legacy that we are all a part of at School 26.

You know, School 26 is known as the little Tuskegee because of the richness of what was occurring there for so many years, built in 1920 — predates Crispus Attucks High School. A place, a school community that originally started at Allen Chapel and then found a home at East 16th Street — then known as Tinker Street — and was the pride and joy of a community.

Bennett: I know this documentary is dedicated to the legacy and the contributions of the school. Ron, what are some of the memories that you have of the school?

School 26 Alumnus Ron Lovett: Well, School 26 was a community school. I mean all the kids in the neighborhood went there and you know, we didn't have neighborhood boundaries like we do now — like Martindale-Brightwood,  Kennedy-King and Heron-Morton — it was just the neighborhood. And if you told someone you went to School 26, they knew the neighborhood you came from just as if someone said I went to School 37 we knew what neighborhood they grew up in.

Bennett: The documentary is going to be unveiled on Wednesday.

Hart: We'll have a public screening at the Kan-Kan theater in Windsor Park at seven o'clock on Wednesday.

Bennett: All right, and that is open to the public. Yes.

Lovett: And that is sold out. It's sold out.

Hart: It is already sold out.

Lovett: And it's also going to be at the Historical Society in their files and the State Library. And, hopefully it will be at the Marion County or Indianapolis public libraries in their cultural division.

Bennett: OK, so there'll be other areas for people to access it, if they don't have that ticket.

Lovett: Yes.

Hart: I would just encourage people in this community, in the Indianapolis community, to spend time understanding the history of this community — of the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood in particular — and the richness that this school, School 26, brought to this community.

Bennett: Alright, sounds good. Thank you both so much.

Hart: Pleasure.

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