Indy group hears Strong case
In a way, life came full circle Friday at the Leora Brown School in Corydon at a re-enactment of the 1800s meeting between former Supreme Court Chief Justice Isaac Blackford and Polly Strong, a slave who sued for her freedom.
In 1816, the Indiana Constitution was formed, forbidding slavery. The practice continued, however, until a young woman from the Vincennes area put the constitution to the test by suing for her freedom. The case was appealed all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court, which ruled in Strong’s favor at the courthouse in the state capitol of Corydon.
Close to 200 years later, a bus tour group from the Indiana Society of Pioneers, based in Indianapolis, made a trip to the Brown school to view the re-enactment. Among those sitting in the crowd was Felesa Averitte, court reporter for Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, Indiana’s first African American ‘ male or female ‘ federal judge who was recently confirmed by Congress to fill a vacancy for the U.S. Southern District of Indiana.
‘I loved it,’ Averitte said after taking photos inside the Leora Brown School. ‘It really is an honor to be here for this and see the production and visit the school. I told Judge Pratt she should have come, and she missed out. I’ll have to bring her back here another time.’
Maxine Brown, owner of the schoolhouse, wrote a new script for the re-enactment, which detailed the first time Strong met Blackford. Strong, played for the first time by University of Louisville student and Iraq War veteran Lanisha Gholston, 31, spoke about her life as a slave and what her newfound freedom meant to her.
During a question-and-answer session afterward, Brown said no one knows what happened to the 22-year-old Vincennes native after the decision.
Blackford was played by Harrison County veteran actor Lance Ponder.
The Harrison-Crawford Bar Association co-sponsored the event.