Walking in the doors of Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School the first thing you notice are the senior class photos. The composites line the hallways and lend to the aura of the school. A school so deeply etched in the history of Indianapolis.
“It’s the first thing that hits you when you walk in,” senior Berenice T. said. “You can see the transition of the school in the photos. You notice the integration and start to see how Attucks has become a very multicultural school. You feel like you’re part of the legacy.”
It’s a legacy that dates back to 1927, when the school first opened its doors. Built to serve the onslaught of segregation in the district the school quickly became the cornerstone and beacon of pride for the Indianapolis African American community.
Dr. Stanley Warren fondly remembers his time at Crispus Attucks as a student and teacher. He graduated from the high school in 1951 and returned to teach social studies and humanities 10 years later.
“The teachers at Attucks were thoughtful…and thought-provoking. They seemed to really care about their students,” Dr. Warren said. “When I taught there I remember having this feeling that I was doing something good, helping even.”
After teaching at Crispus Attucks, Dr. Warren went on to teach at T.C. Howe High School, IUPUI and Indiana University Bloomington before finally settling at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.
His hard work in education has paid off. He’s been recognized as a distinguished alum at his elementary, junior high, high school, college and graduate school. He’s published three books – two that feature Crispus Attucks – and countless articles.
Dr. Warren’s book “High Five: African American Institutions That Have Strengthened the Indianapolis Community,” lists Crispus Attucks as one of the five institutions that has shaped the city. One of the others mentioned is the Madame Walker building.
“Both Crispus Attucks and the Madame Walker Theatre Center still stand proud as a testament to the strength, courage, tenacity, and intellect of our African-American ancestors,” Dr. Kathleen Spears, President and CEO of the Madame Walker Theatre Center said. “Our shared history has led to a longstanding partnership that thrives today.”
Crispus Attucks students can enjoy free admission to matinees of educational films and performing arts programs at the theatre. Most recently 100 Crispus Attucks students visited the theatre for a special viewing of the documentary “At the River I Stand” – that tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.
“It was incredibly moving to witness these young people engage in meaningful dialogue about Dr. King and the relevancy of his work today,” Dr. Spears said. “The students reflected on his approach to ending injustice and one said what he learned from Dr. King is ‘if you fight fire with fire you will get burned but if you bring a fire extinguisher to the fight, you might be able to win’ – to know that our partnership led to that learning opportunity for that one student is more than worth the work we put into this.”
It’s a partnership that spans decades.
Many African American institutions, like Crispus Attucks and the Madame Walker building, are located within five miles of each other near Indiana Avenue and the central canal.
“There was lots of cross-referencing and assistance,” Dr. Warren said. “It’s what kept them going, it still goes on today.”
In Dr. Warren’s book “Crispus Attucks High School: ‘Hail to the Green, Hail to the Gold,” there’s even a photo of former Madame Walker Company executive F.B. Ransom at the 1938 groundbreaking for a new wing at the high school.
Once again, it comes back to the photos.
“When I’m 85 and I come back for my class reunion I’m going to see my photo on the wall, along with everyone else,” Berenice said. “It’s history. And I know I’m always going to be a part of this history.”
We’re proud to honor Crispus Attucks and all those that have walked, are walking, and will walk the hallowed halls. May the history and legacy of Crispus Attucks live on forever.