Free history series will mark state bicentennial


Although ordering the Thanksgiving turkey still remains on my to-do list, an exciting project way down the road began in earnest in October.

In case the recent elections and similar current events garner all of your attention, we’ve got you covered.

Indiana celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2016.

And the Indiana Newspaper in Education Foundation, the Indiana State Reading Association and the HSPA Foundation will partner to produce a free series for you – “So you think you know Indiana? Celebrating 200 years of the Hoosier state.”

Nelson Price, an Indianapolis-based author, journalist, historian and radio personality, just submitted the first two of the 15-part series he will write for publication in Indiana newspapers during the bicentennial celebration.

While the project will target fourth graders who study Indiana history, I can tell you Price’s stories will attract adult readers as well.

I just finished reading the drafts of Price’s pieces on Food Heritage and African Americans.

Being a native of Indian­apolis and spending the first 21 and the last 33 years of my life in the state, I thought I knew a lot about Indiana.

I just learned how much I don’t know.

Most of us realize Indiana ranks high in popcorn production – second only to Nebraska. (I would have put money on Iowa – actually No. 6.) But Price tells us popcorn is only a kernel of the Indiana corn story. (Fabulous line!)

Who knew the Miami Indians grew white corn here long before anyone could even spell Orville Redenbacher? Well I guess I knew when I stop to think about it, but who takes time for that?

Indiana’s official state pie finally makes sense to me. Our harsh winters before the days of supermarkets meant no fruit pies. But the farmhouse kitchen stocked sugar, cream and flour year-round. Thus Hoosiers love their sugar cream pies.

I’m embarrassed to say I did not remember Madam Walker made her fortune selling her hair-care products across the country, in the Caribbean and in Central America. (But you can bet your last dime I knew about Oscar Robertson!)

Price will tackle 13 other fascinating topics including famous Hoosiers, overlooked Hoosiers, quirky and little-known stories about Indiana, ethnic immigration, population shifts, ancient people, ancient animal life, Indiana in the Civil War (Underground Railroad), interesting Indiana names (counties, cities, lakes and other places), Indiana landmarks (monuments, barns, covered bridges, hotels), women who changed the state, Lincoln’s experiences in school and in a blended family, and myths and misconceptions about the state.

The HSPA Foundation will hold an art contest with the project. Schools may submit their students’ best work to accompany one of the stories. When newspapers across the state receive the series, it will include the stories, art work, logo and author credit.

For those who do not recognize Price’s name, I will try to jog your memory.

A distinguished, award-winning former feature writer/columnist for The Indianapolis Star and a fifth-generation Hoosier, Price previously wrote for The Journal-Gazette (Fort Wayne) and the former Indianapolis News, where he was the education reporter.

Among his books, he authored Legendary Hoosiers (Guild Press of Indiana, 2001), a book for young readers that presents the lives of famous people from Indiana in entertaining, interactive ways.

He also wrote Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman (Hawthorne Publishing, 1997 hardcover; 2005 softcover), a book of profiles of 160 famous Hoosiers ranging from historic figures to contemporary newsmakers, and Indianapolis Then and Now (Thunder Bay Press, 2004), a colorful examination of the evolution of America’s 12th largest city.

Price continues to write freelance articles for magazines and for The Indianapolis Star, where he was a feature writer for 21 years. For 12 of those years, he wrote a weekly column for the newspaper and, later, a monthly column about Hoosier history.

On radio Nelson hosts Hoosier History Live, a weekly talk show on WICR-FM (88.7) in Indianapolis – the only live radio show about a state’s history in the nation.

School parent-teacher organizations across the state sponsor his presentations about famous Hoosiers to thousands of fourth graders.

Price won more than 40 state, local, civic and national awards for his profiles of newsmakers. He grew up in Indianapolis and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Indiana University, with degrees in journalism and psychology.

Two Indiana governors named him a Sagamore of the Wabash.

We will apply for endorsement by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission next month and then will look for a sponsor to publish the stories in a book for elementary school libraries after newspapers print the series.

We hope this advanced notice allows you to take advantage of the project in 2016.

(Now I need to order a turkey!)

Karen T. Braeckel is director of the HSPA Foundation.