“Ground-breaking,” “Incredible,” and “Necessary,” were among the words uttered from patrons who
strolled through the sneak preview of the Center For Black Literature and Culture (CBLC) in Indianapolis’
Central Library. Many who attended made a concerted effort to thumb through books, study the art-
laced walls and revel in the warm ambience of history and architecture.
The fruit of Jackie Nytes, Indianapolis Public Library CEO, and Nichelle Hayes, Special Collections
Librarian’s efforts, finally sprang to life after brainstorming, traveling the United States, researching,
interviewing, and then ten months of labor. With the help of a generous $1.3 million grant from the Lilly
Endowment, which will span five years, Indianapolis’ Central Library was able to transform the RB Annis
West Reading Room, where the CBLC is housed, provide materials, and support the accompanying
Though societal hurdles exist worldwide, the Library knew that an evolution must occur here in
Indianapolis. Without highlighting the local legends, the CBLC would not have the heavy impact on
Indianapolis and the residents thereof. It had been said that everyone has a role in the healing of
society. “One of the places we need to go is back to the beginning and try to understand [our city’s
challenges] better… we all have some role in getting our city to become a successful and equitable place
for people.” The CBLC is a direct response to unearthing the history and heritage that holds clues to our
modern-day, societal recovery.
“The African American History Committee has been here at the library since 1978 … in many ways, this is
the logical evolution to what they’ve been doing,” reflected Nytes. Described as a “profound moment”
by Nytes, landing on the Center for ‘Black’ Literature and Culture as opposed to a specific person or
‘African American’ was a pivotal part of the planning process. Sequentially, Hayes’ eyes sparkled with
parent-like pride as she explained how a good problem to have was deciding who to honor with the
banner-sized portraits that frame the upper walls of the exhibit.
From author festivals, to Kevin Powell scheduled to appear to get hands-on with the community, the
mere opening of the CBLC is far from the end.
Interested in supporting the Center for Black Literature and Culture? Get involved with the various
programming that is detailed at http://www.indypl.org/cblc. Also, ensure that you show up equipped
with your library card so that materials can be checked out from the CBLC. The goal is for each visitor to
become more knowledgeable and intimate with Black history as it pertains to Indianapolis and the
world. Gather in the space “between work and home”, discuss findings from the shelves and get familiar
with the nuggets of treasure found in black history.