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Dawn Bakken
Indiana Magazine of History

Last modified: Thursday, July 19, 2012

Indiana history journal publishes the memoir of a civil rights pioneer

July 19, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The most recent issue of the Indiana Magazine of History presents, for the first time in print, the memoir of Faburn DeFrantz, an important pioneer in the civil rights movement in Indiana. The memoir is introduced and contextualized by Richard Pierce, associate professor in the Africana Studies Department at the University of Notre Dame.

DeFrantz, Faburn

Faburn DeFrantz

Print-Quality Photo

From 1916 to 1952, DeFrantz served as executive secretary of the Senate Avenue YMCA in Indianapolis. During a period when YMCAs were segregated, the Senate Y became the largest and most successful African-American Y in the country. During his tenure there, DeFrantz also became a leader, at the city and the state level, of the growing civil rights movement.

When DeFrantz retired, he sat down at a typewriter to record the story of his life's work for his grandchildren. His memoir tells stories of his childhood, including being forcibly evicted from the white-only YMCA in his hometown of Topeka, Kan.

DeFrantz filled most of the pages with his accomplishments at the Senate Avenue Y, including creation of the Sunday afternoon Monster Meetings. What had been a Sunday afternoon tradition of religious meetings for the local black community became a platform at which African-American leaders in education, science, politics, the arts and other fields educated and inspired audiences. DeFrantz used his influence in the city to ensure that white mayors, governors and newspapers editors also spoke at the meetings.

DeFrantz's memoir reveals how he looked beyond the YMCA to work with NAACP leaders and others at local, state and national levels. He helped secure early legislation to desegregate Indianapolis schools; was part of a group that desegregated campus housing at both Indiana University and Purdue University; and worked to end discrimination in public accommodations.

Elsewhere in the June 2012 issue of the magazine, Jesse Gant tells the story of well-known IU historian James Albert Woodburn during his years as a young collegian pondering the politics of Reconstruction.

The Indiana Magazine of History is published quarterly by the Department of History in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington. For general information on the articles, contact the editorial office at 812-855-4139.