INDIANAPOLIS — A new program is working to boost efforts to preserve, protect and recognize Black history in the Hoosier state.

On Thursday, Indiana Landmarks hosted a kickoff ceremony to launch its Black Heritage Preservation Program, an effort that’s already been decades in the making.

Program Director Eunice Trotter said the program’s launch is also part of a national movement in preserving Black heritage, particularly heritage that no longer has an extant site.

“That is one of the issues that our history has to confront,” said Trotter. “Many of our sites have been demolished, erased, and there is always the issue of research that has not been done.”

For example, FOX59 has told you stories about the history of Indiana Avenue. Historians deemed it as the mecca for Black families settling in Indianapolis in the early 1800s. However, today, besides the iconic Madam C.J. Walker Building, not much is left to show of its vibrant history.

“Most people, they’re very familiar with Indiana Avenue, where most of that heritage has been erased,” said Trotter.

Preventing erasure is what Trotter hopes to do through this program. Made possible through grant funding by Lilly Endowment and the National Trust of Historic Places African American Cultural Action Fund, she said this allows more opportunity in helping promote and educate communities.

“This program is going to give us a big boost to not only finding that heritage, but also preserving it,” said Trotter. “It helps us provide funding to grassroots organizations that are focused on preserving heritage in those communities.”

Trotter said the program is already hitting the ground running, looking at sites and ideas in and outside of Indianapolis. Some sites throughout the state include Means Manor (Gary), Booker T. Washington School (Rushville), Georgetown (Madison), Lyles Station (Princeton), African American History Museum (Fort Wayne), Second Baptist Church (New Albany) and Better Homes of South Bend.

In Indianapolis, organizers are also looking at ideas and sites within St. Rita Catholic Church, Belmont Beach, Lt. Jr. Grade Graham Edward Martin/Golden 13, School 56 and Norwood.

“We are really, really interested in School 56,” said Trotter. “Right now, School 56 is in danger of being demolished. That school is one of the last remaining bits of evidence that the east side of Indianapolis, that’s the area near Andrew J. Brown, 25th Street, 16th Street, was an all-Black community. Much like Indiana Avenue, everything else has been wiped out.”

Trotter said efforts to preserve and recognize heritage are not limited to just historical markers, organizers plan to explore other avenues, like using technology.

“That evidence, because so much of it has been erased, has to take other shapes,” said Trotter. “Be it through augmented reality, or markers, or memorial benches, or you name it, there are a lot of other ways to recognize that heritage.”

In the meantime, Trotter said they will be looking for the community to join their efforts, as they’re currently seeking a variety of expertise in supporting this statewide vision.

“We are looking for writers. We are looking for historical researchers to build the infrastructure that we need in order to go out and get that history and document that history,” said Trotter. “We want to get some of that history on the National Register, so it has protections and additional resources, because you have to be on the registry in order to get federal funding for example.”

“We need architectural people, who will be willing to help these community groups do studies and planning for how to restore these communities,” she said. “What I say is that preservation is an economic engine for communities, and so when those communities see that historic building, it triggers another one, and it causes another one, and it rebuilds communities.”