Skip to main content

The Human Relations Council and Human Rights Commission

Reno Jamison, Aaron Stewart-Curet, Chris Roman, Tyler Downing,

In the mid-1960s through the 1990s the Crawfordsville Human Relations Council (CHRC) and Montgomery County Human Rights Commission (MCHRC) led the charge in the fight against racism in Crawfordsville and Montgomery County.  Both of these organizations’ work was responding to and combating the Ku Klux Klan’s presence in Crawfordsville and Montgomery County.  In the 1970s and 1980s the leader of Indiana’s chapter of the Ku Klux Klan lived in Crawfordsville.  Therefore, the KKK held many rallies and parades in Crawfordsville and the other small rural communities scattered across Montgomery County. The CHRC and MCHRC responded to the KKK’s demonstrations with celebrations, marches, and rallies of their own.

The fight against racism in Montgomery County was not a task the CHRC and MCHRC were charged with accomplishing on their own.  In fact, both of these organizations frequently partnered with the Wabash College community to accomplish their goals.  For rallies, marches, and protests the CHRC and MCHRC called on Wabash students, professors, and organizations such as Wabash’s student government and Malcom X Institute of Black Studies for support in the fight against racism.  In addition to support from Wabash College the CHRC and MCHRC received support from local businesses and other civil rights organizations across Indiana.

Although the fight against racism in Crawfordsville did not gain significant national attention the role it played was pivotal in the national fight against racism, especially between the 1970s and 1990s.  In respect to the national civil rights movement it was necessary for towns like Crawfordsville and other small rural communities to embrace equality for all races.  On a national level large organizations like SNCC and the SCLC enabled progress towards equality by leading the movement in the urban areas like Birmingham and Montgomery.  However, it was organizations like the CHRC and MCHRC in rural places like Crawfordsville IN, who ensured the continued progress towards equality in the decades that followed the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Students Poll Cville

"Students Poll C'ville,"
the Bachelor, January 18, 1963

This Bachelor article discusses an event put together by the Montgomery County Human Relations Council and 20 Wabash student volunteers in 1963. Together, they conducted polls of the Crawfordsville population in regards to racial discrimination, race relations, and opportunities for African Americans at Wabash and Crawfordsville as a whole. This article outlines the background for the Montgomery County Human Relations Council, its objectives, and some of its executive members, who happened to be Wabash Faculty members.

Survey Tallies In; 252 Locals Polled

"Survey Tallies In; 252 Locals Polled"
the Bachelor, February 15, 1963

This Bachelor article reveals the results to the polls conducted on Crawfordsville citizens on January 18-19, 1963 by the Montgomery County Human Relations Council and Wabash students. 252 people were surveyed to get a sense of how racial issues were shaped in Crawfordsville during the Civil Rights Movement. It is apparent that the people of Crawfordsville were split when it came to racial discrimination, but the majority had no issues with dining with, working with, or receiving the same rights in general as African Americans.

Apartheid March

"Apartheid March"
Lafayette Journal-Courier,
April 5, 1987

This Lafayette Journal & Courier article depicts marchers who were part of an anti-apartheid demonstration that took place in Crawfordsville in 1987. This march consisted of 400 demonstrators from Wabash College, the Crawfordsville Human Rights Commission, and the Coalition Against Apartheid and Racism. The march started at Wabash College and went to the historic Lane Place. The demonstrators marched in response to the local presence of the KKK, which had held rallies in Crawfordsville, Delphi, and Ladoga.

Mayor Calls for Boycott of Klan

"Mayor Calls for Boycott of Klan,"
the Journal Review, February 28, 1994

This Journal Review article describes how the community responded when a KKK group came to Crawfordsville to recruit new members in February 1994. As a result, the Crawfordsville Human Rights Commission (CHRC) organized many of the town’s businesses, organizations, and groups from Wabash College to create the first ever “Community Celebration of Unity and Diversity.” The CHRC and its allies did not want to protest against or argue with the KKK, but instead to make something that was both positive and unifying for the community. This article gives a vivid image of the methods used by the CHRC to combat racism.

Crawfordsville Unity Celebration Advertisement

Crawfordsville Unity Celebration Ad,
the Journal Review, April 2, 1994

“Unity Celebrations” were put on by the Crawfordsville Human Rights Commission during the early 1990s to help combat racist ideologies in the Crawfordsville area.  Advertisements such as this one were included in issues of the local newspaper to spread awareness of race relations.  On the back of the ad there is a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. This exemplifies how race relations remained a central issue across the small towns of the United States even thirty years after the Civil Rights Movement.

The Human Relations Council and Human Rights Commission