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Monday, August 2, 2010

Indiana Avenue: Black Entertainment Boulevard by Rev. C. Nickerson Bolden

Indiana Avenue: Black Entertainment Boulevard is an important study into a mostly ignored part of Indianapolis history - the African-American cultural heart of Indianapolis in the first half of the 20th century. It was originally a Master's thesis for a community planning degree, but was re-worked a bit for this self-published effort.

There are two kinds of history books. There are the narrative histories, made famous by authors such as David McCollough. A second type of book is the ones that are more research-intensive, mostly facts and they really don't attempt to tell a cohesive narrative. Both are important. The narratives depend on the research books. The research books depend on the narrative books to tell the story to everyone. That simple (and ugly) description is part of a roundabout way of noting that this book is a research book, not a narrative.

Bolden does a pretty thorough job of describing the origins of Indiana Avenue and its growth and eventual decline. It is not the most readable book, but I learned a lot about this neighborhood - a vital part of the history of my city.

If you are looking for less stats and more of a narrative history of the same neighborhood in the 1920s and 1930s, I recommend For Gold and Glory: Charlie Wiggins and the African-American Racing Car Circuit.

One complaint - there are lots of pictures from the Indiana Historical Society in this book. The captions are sparse at best - I wish individual buildings and people would have been adressed. I am especially curious about the picture on page 12 of President Eisenhower riding on a car on Indiana Avenue in what looks to be a parade. That would have been an intersting story to have included.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Indiana Avenue: Black Entertainment Boulevard.

Reviewed on February 28, 2010.

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