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People of Color Residing in Bloomington in 1913 and Earlier

Blog post by Randi Richardson


In 1913 Byron K. Armstrong, an individual of color and founder of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, wrote a thesis titled “Colored Population of Bloomington.  It was written under the direction of Dr. U. G. Weatherly in compliance with the requirements of the Department of Economics and Sociology of Indiana University for the Bachelor of Arts degree.  The 56-page paper covers many aspects of the local Afro American race as well as racial relations in Bloomington at the time. The document is available online at


Dr. Byron K. Armstrong

Based upon a review of the appendix, it appears that Armstrong either did some extensive surveys of people of color in the Bloomington community or had someone do the work for him.  Unfortunately, his thesis includes only a statistical analysis of the surveys.

A portion of Armstrong’s thesis, pages 19-20, provided information pertaining to the size the of Bloomington’s “negro” population.  However, the paper is not footnoted and, consequently, the reader must question how some of the information was obtained and its credibility.  A small portion of the paper has been transcribed below exactly how it was written:

The colored population was 25 in 1860.  Hence from this fact we may conclude that before this date there were no negroes in Bloomington.  This is due to the fact that the negro population of Bloomington is made up of ex-slaves.  In 1870 the population had jumped to 259.  This enormous rate of increase is due to the coming in of the freedmen.  From this time on the population has increased very slowly which proves that the source of the negro population of Bloomington was the southland.  The growth of the negro population 1860-1910 is as follows:

1860 – 25

1870 –259

1880 –345

1890 –408

1900 –428

1910 –438

From this table we can see that since the influx of the freedmen from the South has ceased, the population is now at a standstill.  Bloomington is like many other small towns in the North, the negro population is slowly decreasing.  The causes for settlement in such districts are no longer active.  The negro is no longer attracted to these districts as were the old slaves.  He is now rather attracted to the larger cities where there is more social utilities and economic advantages.

Comparing the white population with that of the colored population we see that there are 8,838 people in Bloomington.  Of these 438 are negroes, or about one twenty-second.  Increase of negroes and whites since 1900:

White                           Negroes


1900                6034                            428

1910                8400                            438

It is to be noticed that while the negro population has remained stationary that the whites have increased very fast.  First there has been no increase of the birth rate of negroes over the death rate.  Second, it is probable that some of the younger negroes have migrated to the larger cities.  Third, the economic and commercial activities of Bloomington have developed wonderfully and have reacted on the size of the white population by increasing it.

Two years prior to the completion of Byron’s thesis, in 1911, he founded the first chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, a fraternity for young men of color, at Indiana University.




Comments (1)

  1. Dixie Kline Richardson


    I am betting in l860, Monroe County had black residents who had never been slaves; it was true of Owen County, next door and I know in later years when I interviewed some African American of the area, relatives lived in both counties.

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