This spring, The Oaks Academy was excited and honored to reopen the historic Paul Laurence Dunbar Library within The Oaks Academy, Martindale-Brightwood at John Hope School 26.

Since purchasing School 26 to be the home for our middle school and Pre-K center, we have strived to honor the building’s rich legacy and its significance to the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood. 

Opened in 1922 and named for the renowned American poet and novelist, the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library was the first library for the African American community in Indianapolis. The library served School 26 students and members of the neighborhood for decades. When the Indianapolis library system restructured in the 1960s, the Dunbar Library closed as a public branch but continued as a school library until School 26 closed in 1997.

Thanks to generous donors who desired to honor this historic space, the Dunbar Library was restored to its original footprint in early 2024 and reopened on May 8, 2024. Guests spent the morning honoring our building’s history, reflecting on the legacies of influential local figures in Black arts and culture, and celebrating the exciting opportunities now accessible to Oaks students and our community. 

One of the new opportunities is the Mari Evans Residency for Artists and Authors of Color. This residency program invites contemporary writers and artists of color into a unique experience that includes writing in a historic space, engaging with a diverse group of middle school students, and sharing their work with the Indianapolis community. The program founder and first Mari Evans Resident is Maurice Broaddus, Oaks Academy middle school librarian and award-winning author.

The Dunbar Library is part of the Indianapolis Public Library Shared System and any books purchased are available for circulation throughout the library system. The library will house special collections on the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and Afrofuturism. 

Among the many community members and donors who contributed to this project, we are grateful to the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation who supported the renovation and has been a thoughtful and consistent supporter of the arts and humanities at The Oaks and throughout our community. We are so grateful to all our supporters who contributed to this project in a myriad of ways.

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Change is always challenging, especially when it may effect your children. Please share any questions or comments you have using the form below, or by emailing me directly at ahart@theoaksacademy.org.

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