African Americans, enslaved and free, had a presence in Floyd County from the beginnings of European settlement in the area. The 1830 census listed 265 black residents. The population grew dramatically in later decades. By 1860 New Albany had the largest number of African Americans in Indiana. Free blacks worked in shipbuilding, as wagon drivers and draymen, and on the Ohio River as boatmen, firemen, cooks, engineers, and chambermaids. A few owned property. Many lived in the West Union neighborhood, which became a target of racism as debate over slavery escalated. African Americans lent support to runaway slaves fleeing the South and served valiantly in the Civil War.
The history of African Americans in New Albany is evident in many sites. Churches, public buildings, private houses, bridges, and cemeteries reflect the lives and experiences of African Americans. This tour focuses on sites associated with the African American past. It highlights the diversity of the African American experience and its centrality in southern Indiana history.