One of the reasons I love living in Indianapolis is the cultural diversity found within the city. Cultural diversity is nothing new to Indianapolis. A mixed population of Native Americans, Scots-Irish, Pennsylvania Dutch and people from Ohio founded the city in 1821. During the middle of the 19th century, Indianapolis had tried to establish a trade route along the White River and through the railroad. The prospect of establishing a better life in a thriving market brought an influx of German and Irish settlers to the city. Indianapolis’ African American community had established itself by the 1840’s and had become a sizable community by the start of the Civil War. The Industrial Era of the late 19th century brought an influx of Southern and Eastern Europeans to Indianapolis.
Indianapolis is the city developed by immigrants and African Americans. Like most large cities, immigrants and African Americans settled into their own districts within the city. These ethnic enclaves allowed for each group to maintain their cultural heritage and identity while partaking the benefits of being a citizen of the city. As people moved about the city they influenced others to reconsider how they viewed the world around them. The immigrants also left their mark on the city through the establishment of schools, churches, and businesses.
African Americans were very influential in the city’s history. They thrived in the Indiana Avenue district with its strong middle class community. Indianapolis was the first place in the nation to print an illustrated black newspaper. Dubbed, the Harper’s Weekly of the United States’ black community, the Indianapolis Freeman was circulated nationally. Indianapolis was also the home to Madam C.J. Walker, one of America’s first self-made woman millionaire and the world’s richest African American woman of her time.
Today, Indianapolis faces a new wave of immigration that has brought forth another cultural change. Thousands of Hispanics from Mexico, Central and South America have moved into the city. The last time the city faced such a large wave of immigration was during the end of the 19th century. The thriving Hispanic population is dramatically changing the city. Like the immigrants before them, they are establishing their own schools, churches and businesses. It’s not uncommon to hear Spanish being spoken somewhere in the city. In fact, the city and local businesses are facing a new challenge with the Hispanic population. Translators. Most of the Hispanic population does not speak English and until recently most Indianapolis residents didn’t have a need to learn Spanish. Indianapolis is a thriving city with a unique multicultural heritage. It’s not uncommon to see ethic grocery stores and hear a wide variety of different languages on any given day. Indianapolis – the melting pot of the Midwest.