(Atlanta, Ind.) – Following a three-month successful fundraising effort among members of family, friends, and community supporters, plans for the Roberts Settlement Legacy Walk were unveiled to the public on Thursday, February 23 at Bethel A.M.E. Church.
The construction concepts (and future fabrication and installation) created by Display Dynamics, Inc. for the Roberts Settlement Legacy Walk include an accessible walking path, beginning at the Indiana State Historical Marker and looping through the west side of the Chapel, providing the means for a self-guided journey through Roberts Settlement’s Black pioneer history as well as a peaceful place for reflection. Visitors will be greeted by “Morning Light,” a dazzling entry feature symbolizing exploration, discovery, opportunity, and hope. Beyond, the Legacy Walk will take visitors through four separate themed stations: Roots & Migration, Progress & Perseverance, Faith & Reverence and Legacy & Footprints. Each station includes a title monolith, a bench, and a graphic reader rail with interpretive content. Structures are fabricated from Corten-style steel and faux stone.
With more than $340,000 in pledges, cash, and in-kind donations, the IMAGINE! Black Pioneers fundraising campaign turns to the public for the remaining $100,000 to fund this interpretive outdoor public exhibit that focuses on the legacy of Hamilton County (Indiana)’s Black pioneers and broadens visitors’ understanding of the Midwest's diverse history.
Major community donors to the project to-date include: Hamilton County Tourism ($100,000), Roberts Settlement descendants ($60,000), the Merrell family ($30,000), Beck Hybrids (in-kind donation concrete infrastructure $30,000) and Burtner Electric (in-kind donation electrical $15,000). Central Indiana Community Foundation provided $20,000 for the initial project study and design concept.
“The outpouring of support of this magnitude has been little less than amazing,” said Roberts Settlement President LaVella Hyter. “These donations allow us to move forward with a groundbreaking during our 100th annual Homecoming in July with the intent to have the Legacy Walk open in late fall.”
Underscoring the national historical significance of the project, the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (AACHAF), a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, recently announced its award of $75,000 to Roberts Settlement for Preserving Black Churches. Roberts Settlement is one of 35 organizations in 22 states to receive a total of $4 million in grant funding to advance long-term and sustainable strategies that strengthen stewardship and asset management, interpretation and programming, and fundraising activities for historic Black churches across the country. This program works to uplift the legacy of often-overlooked Black churches, ensuring their legacy of spirituality, history, and democracy endures.
Roberts Settlement is located just east of US 31 on 276th St. It was founded in 1835 by free Blacks of mixed racial heritage who migrated mostly from North Carolina and Virginia to escape deteriorating racial conditions in the South. Their goals were the pursuit of economic, educational, and religious aspirations with greater freedom and fewer racial barriers. Today, set on a gently rolling landscape, visitors will find a chapel and cemetery, representing a once thriving community that continued to grow through the late-1800s.
For more information about the Roberts Settlement Legacy Walk or how to donate, click to this page of the website.
About Roberts Settlement
Roberts Settlement was established in 1835 by free people of color who migrated mostly from North Carolina and Virginia to escape deteriorating racial conditions. Their goals were the pursuit of economic, educational, and religious aspirations with greater freedom and fewer racial barriers. Today, the descendants gather annually for a family Homecoming to celebrate their shared history and renew their family bonds. In 2023, Roberts Settlement publicly unveiled plans for the Roberts Settlement Legacy Walk with support from the Lilly Endowment Inc. This project was funded in part by a grant from the African American Cultural Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information, visit RobertsSettlement.org.