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Muncie, Indiana, USA, Middletown
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Muncie, Indiana has been the focus of countless social science studies, but the African-American population has consistently been disregarded. This project works with the leaders of the African-American community to create picture essays that document the African-American experience in Muncie.
Danny Gawlowski

2003 — student award of excellence

Muncie, Indiana has been the focus of countless social science studies, but the African-American population has consistently been disregarded. Community leaders are now researching their history to tell their story. As historical photographs are collected, I will expand the collection with picture essays that document the African-American experience in Muncie.

In the 1920s, sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd determined Muncie, Indiana to be an ideally typical American town. In Muncie, the “homogenous, native-born population” could be researched independently from the “small Negro and foreign born population,” which was discounted. The classic work, “Middletown,” set the stage for many subsequent studies, but the separation of the African-American community has yet to be rectified.

One of the most prominent and prolific members of the community, retired state representative Hurley Goodall, is now working with anthropology professor Dr. Luke Eric Lassiter and Ball State University students to investigate the history and document the current conditions of the African-American community. The findings will be published as a book entitled “The Other Side of Middletown”, modeled after the original study by the Lynds.

In conjunction with this project, I will produce a series of picture essays that focus on the book’s six areas of study: education, leisure, family, religion, business, and community activities. I am currently working with community advisors to find stories that are significant to the community. I have already started essays based on their advice.

When black women were not allowed into mainstream beauty pageants, Ball State University students created the Miss Unity competition. I am nearly finished with an essay focusing on this year’s pageant. The high school basketball team has won several state championships, was depicted in the movie “Hoosiers” and is a major unifying force in the community. I am working on an essay about two brothers that play on the team together.

Morticians and barbers have historically been leaders in the community since their businesses exist outside of white influence. I plan on documenting the lives of Ed Faulkner, a prominent mortician, and Delores Rhinehart, a beautician kept out of retirement by a loyal clientele. Several people have pointed out the significance of single parents. I plan to focus on Daedra Pryor, a single mother who is working and returning to school with the intention of opening a clinic for single mothers. Through these beginnings and further interviews, I will develop further story ideas.

Upon completion of the project, the images will be presented to the community as well as offered for inclusion in “The Other Side of Middletown” along with historical photographs.

Read more
Jailah Jamerson listens to the pregnant belly of her mother, Joyce Jamerson, before a baby shower as her two stepbrothers hug behind her.
Though Muncie is one of the most well researched small cities in the United States, the African-American community has been historically neglected. This is a selection from a series of photo essays entitled "The Other Side of Middletown" that intends to highlight Muncie's African-American community. Danny Gawlowski/Alexia Foundation
Pastor Larry McCoy carries Rashae Love into the waters of Muncie's White River to be baptized as her family members towel off on the shore. Danny Gawlowski/Alexia Foundation
Stephanie Vance cups her father's, Richard "Smokey" Vance, face in her hands while playing around in the living room of their Muncie, Ind. apartment. Since being put on disability in 1993, "Smokey" has been able to dedicate most of his time to being a single father. "My life revolves around my kids. That's the beginning and end story of me," he says. Danny Gawlowski/Alexia Foundation
Changing Perspectives - Over Boundaries - Joshua Hughes and Patricia Gorenc fell quickly in love after meeting a year ago. When the subject of interracial dating was brought up by Gorenc to her parents, however, they disapproved. Their relationship progressed in secret anyway and then publicly. Patricia's parents have decided not to interfere. Danny Gawlowski/Alexia Foundation
Outside of the house that she built with Habitat for Humanity, Denise cries with joy as she thanks all who helped her become a homeowner. "I felt so overjoyed to have people I don't even know helping me build me house," Hill said. Danny Gawlowski/Alexia Foundation
Rosemary Evans reads a magazine as she waits in the Rhineharts' Barbershop in Muncie. Though the Rhineharts retired several years ago, loyal customers, such as Evans, convinced them to continue to work a few days each week. Danny Gawlowski/Alexia Foundation
TaNesha Moore takes a moment of silence to steady herself before her performance at the Miss Unity Pageant begins. Danny Gawlowski/Alexia Foundation
Immediately after the Muncie City Council Vote that defeated the bill to rename Broadway Avenue to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, Monte Murphy silently shows his disappointment. Murphy, the city's only African American council member, introduced the bill. Danny Gawlowski/Alexia Foundation
Cheerleaders Ashley Barnes and Carla Armstrong exchange gossip during a high school basketball game at Muncie Central. Danny Gawlowski/Alexia Foundation
In the original 1920s study of Muncie, "Middletown," Muncie Central basketball was cited as the one unifying force in the community. Though Muncie Central still holds more state championships than any other team in Indiana, it has not won a championship in over a decade. Danny Gawlowski/Alexia Foundation