The town of Lyles Station, Indiana was one of the early farming settlements for free Blacks in the North, and remains the only such community of its sort today. The community was featured at the recently opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Named after Black farmer Joshua Lyles, the town was established between the late 1830’s and early 1840’s, according to varying reports. Lyles, who was from Virginia, and his brother. traveled to the region and purchased plots of land. From there, the community grew and began to attract other free Blacks looking to begin new lives. Since this was before the Civil War, the threat of slavery and racism loomed just to the south of the state.

However, Lyles Station remained a self-contained and thriving community. It was a successful venture that helped other similar communities spring up in the state and across the country. Much like the Great Migration and other mass movements involving Blacks, the potential for better opportunities and for escaping racist oppression inspired families to uproot and establish havens like Lyles Station.

Today, Lyles Station continues to exist but in a much smaller capacity. Though boasting just a few hundred residents, many of the descendants of the original settlers, the traditions of old still remain. Notable Lyles Station residents include Alonzo Fields, the first African-American butler to serve in the White House, and Rev. Lyman Parks, Grand Rapids, Michigan’s first Black mayor.

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Photo: Kurt Weber

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