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A Whole Lot of Name Changes Coming to the Hoosier State?

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There are 92 Indiana counties. One third are named for men who have ties to slavery



There are 92 counties in Indiana. About a third are named for people who have ties to slavery or supported otherwise racist policies. 

Some are well-known — Thomas Jefferson fathered children with an enslaved woman he owned, and Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act resulted in the deaths of thousands of Native Americans — while others are considered war heroes or Founding Fathers who enslaved people working on their land.

Eric Sandweiss, a professor in the department of history at Indiana University's Bloomington campus, said the legacy of slavery is inescapable in this country, even in a state where its very practice was outlawed.

Though Indiana has prided itself in being a place that honors individual liberty since it was a territory, the state's record, Sandweiss said, should still be examined with a critical eye. In 1851, Sandweiss noted, the authors of the state's constitution inserted a now-expunged article that stipulated that "no negro or mulatto shall come into or settle in the State."

"If we’re going to take pride in being Hoosiers — as we should — then that means that we have to vow to have an open mind," he said, "and a willingness to learn about the places where we fell short in the past.”

In the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody on May 25, communities across the country are reevaluating places and things that commemorate figures whose actions today are no longer considered commendable. But in doing that work, it can be difficult to define where the line is drawn.

Should we focus solely on those who owned enslaved people? What about those who supported policies that upheld the institution of slavery? What about those who remained willfully ignorant and continued to benefit from it?

Because the resulting inequities are so deeply entrenched in the American system, we have to allow space to explore the ambiguities, Sandweiss said.

"It’s not like the Mason-Dixon line," he said, "it really is this gray area where the very substance of our blood flow as a nation is filled with these cells that can’t help but circulate throughout the body.”

Indiana's 92 counties were named during the early- to mid-1800s, before the nation's divide over the issue of slavery reached its violent peak. Honoring someone in name — whether it's a gymnasium, a sand dune or a county — is part of a process that reflects the sentiment and understanding regarding the subject at that time, Sandweiss said.  

By revisiting names or removing monuments, he said, Americans are simply taking another step forward in that process — not backward. 

"We may be reversing a decision that made sense to one group of people at one time, but we’re all engaged in the same adventure," he said, "and that is to realize this experiment, this vision of having a free state and a free republic.”

Indiana counties and their namesakes

This list is likely not exhaustive. That said, here's what we know about the men who gave some of Indiana's counties their names.

Missouri Sen. Thomas Hart Benton was a champion of Manifest Destiny and in 1846 spoke to Congress about white supremacy: "It would seem that the White race alone received the divine command, to subdue and replenish the earth."

Frontiersman Daniel Boone owned at least seven enslaved people.

Declaration signer Charles Carroll owned enslaved people.

Michigan Sen. Lewis Cassadvocated for popular sovereignty, which would have allowed whites in each territory to decide whether they wanted their territory to enter into the Union as a free state or a slave state.

Surveyor George Rogers Clark owned enslaved people.

Kentucky Sen. Henry Clay publicly condemned slavery, but owned enslaved people

Toussaint Dubois, a Montreal-born Frenchman who fought in the American Revolution, owned at least four enslaved people at a 400-acre plantation near Vincennes. 

Continental Army Gen. Nathanael Greene advocated for Black regiments during the American Revolution and owned enslaved people during the war.

Founding Father Alexander Hamilton bought and sold enslaved people for his in-laws.

As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, William Henry Harrison repeatedly opposed attempts by Congress to stop the spread of slavery or restrict the authority of slavers over the people they enslaved.

Founding Father Patrick Henry called the institution of slavery a "lamentable evil," but owned enslaved people.

President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act, passed in 1830, resulted in the forced relocation of 100,000 Native Americans to "Indian territory" west of the Mississippi River. Thousands died on the journey, known as the Trail of Tears.

President Thomas Jeffersonowned over 600 enslaved people in his lifetime.

As a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison proposed what would become the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted an enslaved person as three-fifths of their white counterpart when determining Senate representation based on population. He also owned dozens of enslaved people at his Virginia home.

Gen. Francis Marion owned enslaved people.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall said the practice of slavery was "contrary to the law of nature," and was president of the Richmond, Virginia, branch of the American Colonization Society, which encouraged the voluntary return of free Blacks to Liberia. But he owned up to 200 enslaved people.

President James Monroe supported abolishing the practice of slavery, but owned up to 250 enslaved people.

Gen. Richard Montgomeryowned enslaved people.

Gen. Daniel Morgan owned enslaved people.

Indiana Territory Attorney General Benjamin Parke was a proponent of slavery.

Gen. Thomas Posey wrote that he was against slavery, but left six enslaved people to his children and sold dozens to George Washington.

Gen. Israel Putnam owned at least one enslaved person.

Thomas Randolph was a pro-slavery advocate who ran for the position of Territorial Delegate to Congress in 1811.

Declaration signer Benjamin Rush once referred to the institution of slavery as a "national crimes," but owned an enslaved child.

cabin and graveyard occupied by enslaved people was located on Kentucky Gov. Isaac Shelby's property near Lexington.

Then-Gen. John Tipton led a militia that forcibly removed the Potawatomi tribe from northern Indiana, expelling them to Kansas. The 660-mile journey resulted in dozens of deaths and is now referred to as the Potawatomi Trail of Death

Gen. Joseph Warrenowned enslaved people.

Capt. Jacob Warrick owned enslaved people.

President George Washington owned enslaved people for more than 50 years.

Gen. Anthony Wayne owned enslaved people.

Col. Isaac White owned enslaved people.


Shouldn't the residents of these counties, if they truly cared about this despicable heritage foisted on to them by their ancestors,  rise up and demand the names of these counties be changed?


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53 minutes ago, psaboy said:

I think the "cancel culture" needs to be canceled, bunch of Snowflakes. 

Donald Trump is the biggest snowflake of them all. 

On 7/14/2020 at 9:31 AM, Coach Nowlin said:

and Jasper and Lake county slid on by !!!    Shoooooo , that was a close one 

Pulaski county too! Yahooooo!

I think the guy we are named after is from Poland. 

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8 hours ago, TheStatGuy said:

Pulaski county too! Yahooooo!

I think the guy we are named after is from Poland. 

Pulaski? From Poland? I thought that was Thaddeus Kosciuszko. Wasn’t Pulaski from Cleveland? 🤣

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9 hours ago, TheStatGuy said:

Donald Trump is the biggest snowflake of them all. 

Pulaski county too! Yahooooo!

I think the guy we are named after is from Poland. 

Pulaski is credited with saving George Washington‘s (a known slave owner’s) life during the Revolutionary War.

Change it.

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15 hours ago, Impartial_Observer said:

Might want to check out the origins of Illinois Scooter.

Burn it ALL down.

Well then, fatty, I hereby propose that, in following the pattern set by 3 of the 13 colonies, Indiana be renamed New Bedfordshire.

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31 minutes ago, DanteEstonia said:

Well then, fatty, I hereby propose that, in following the pattern set by 3 of the 13 colonies, Indiana be renamed New Bedfordshire.

Nah, "State 16" is much better.  And logical.


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4 hours ago, DK_Barons said:


Wouldn't Tennessee have first claim to the number 16?

Duh, you are right.  My mistake.  Indiana would be "State 19".  I got the numbers 6 and 9 transposed in mind.  Must have been that god-awful history/government teacher I had (RIP) ............................................


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