TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– In 2021, Terry Ward was able to celebrate the end of a years-long journey to get a marker placed to tell the story of his great-grandfather, George Ward.
Back in 1901, George was lynched in Terre Haute after being accused of killing a white woman. The marker was placed in Fairbanks Park, and hundreds attended the ceremony.
Over the past two years, work has continued to help expand that space.
Ward was joined by several others around the community Wednesday, talking about some of progress that’s been made– and what they hope is to come.
Several new features have already been added near the marker, and it’s taken a joint effort from people around Terre Haute. Ally Midgley, the executive director for Arts Spaces, helped design a plaque that includes words from local historian, Dr. Crystal Reynolds. Several donors helped install benches at the spot– and the City of Terre Haute helped with the financial aspect as well.
Ward said seeing so many around the area pitch in has been special.
“It’s been exciting, it’s been laboring, Dr. Reynolds and myself have done as much as we can possibly do and I’m so thankful we’ve had numbers in the community who have come to help and support us, that tells us the community itself is facing injustice in the Terre Haute area,” he said.
Reynolds, who has also been a part of the project since day one, said she hopes this will soon be “an educational space” that will showcase numerous African-Americans who made an impact in Terre Haute.
“We want to tell those stories throughout the whole space,: she said. “I’m elated we got done with phase one but there’s so much more to do because there are so many stories that are apart of our history.”
Some of that has already started– one of the benches is dedicated to Clarence Walker, an Indiana State Basketball who helped desegregate NCAA postseason play. But Reynolds long-term vision includes people such as Willa Brown, Cynthia Shepard Perry and others.
“I want this small space to be powerful, I want it to be sacred, and I want it to be a place that, when you come here, it actually takes your breath away. We want to educate here and we want people to leave here more knowledgeable, and better than they came,” she said.
It’s taken years– and around $60,000– to get to this point, and Ward said he believes the work will be worth it as it will be showcased at the park for years to come.
“With everyone who has committed something to help, it has made this possible,” he said. “And this is a beautiful site, this is not a small endeavor it’s a great endeavor for history.”