Black History Month event shines light on 19th-century Indiana icon

History Professor J. Michael Raley and the headstone of Moses Broyles

J. Michael Raley, Hanover College professor of history, will present his latest research on the prominent 19th-century African-American pastor Rev. Moses Broyles during a special Black History Month presentation of the annual Daryl R. Karns Lecture.

Raley’s address, “’We Have a Right to Live in this Country’: Rev. Moses Broyles and the Struggle for Social Justice and Racial Equality in 19th-century Indiana,” will tell the story of Broyles’ life and career, as well as feature portions of the community leader’s speeches, sermons and newspaper editorials that are being collected for a related book project. Area residents will find particular interest Broyles’ connections to nearby Eleutherian College and Hanover College.

J. Michael Raley, professor of history

Raley’s address will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, at Fitzgibbon Recital Hall, Lynn Center for Fine Arts. The event – part of Hanover’s Social Justice Series – is open to the public, free of charge.

Broyles ranks as one of the leading historical figures in Indiana’s African American religious, educational, political and legal communities. However, no critical study of his life and contributions has been published to date.

Broyles was born into slavery in Maryland in 1826. A slave in Maryland, Tennessee and Kentucky for 28 years, he taught himself to read and write and was, ultimately, able to purchase his freedom in 1854. He  moved from Kentucky to Lancaster, Ind., where he enrolled in classes at Eleutherian College. After three years of study, Broyles applied to Hanover College during a period of when antebellum racial tensions in the region were elevated and, instead, relocated to Indianapolis.

Upon moving to Indianapolis in 1857, Broyles taught at a private African American elementary school. In 1872, he was instrumental in the integration of the only high school in Indianapolis at the time. At the same time, he also served for 25 years as the bi-vocational pastor at Second Baptist Church in Indianapolis.

Broyles’ importance to African American and Indiana history extends far beyond his religious and educational influences. Throughout his life in Indiana, he remained a fierce opponent of slavery and the state’s anti-Black laws. He was a determined activist who demanded equal rights and privileges for all African Americans as U.S. citizens.

Broyles died August 31, 1882. In June 2006, during the celebration of Second Baptist Church’s 160th anniversary, a headstone was purchased and a memorial service was held at Broyles’ unmarked grave.

Moses Broyles’ burial site at Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis

The Karns Lecture is presented annually by the recipient of the Daryl R. Karns Award for Scholarly and Creative Activity. Named for the late professor of biology, the award was established in 2011 and is given to a member of the faculty in recognition of sustained scholarly or creative achievement.

The 2022 Karns Award recipient, Raley has been a member of Hanover’s faculty since 2013. He is a past president of the Indiana Association of Historians and is presently a director-at-large of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences. He was awarded the Stanley Totten Award for Outstanding Service to Hanover College in 2022.

Raley, who earned his doctorate at the University of Chicago, teaches courses on medieval Europe, the Italian Renaissance and the Reformation era, Tudor and Stuart England, African and world history, and the history of human rights. His research interests focus on the socio-legal and cultural history of late medieval and early modern Europe, and the economic and cultural history of the American Midwest during the 19th century. Since coming to Hanover, he also has examined race relations in the Ohio River Valley and the early civil rights movement during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In addition, Raley is co-editor of “Montesinos’ Legacy: Defining and Defending Human Rights for 500 Years.” He is also the author of scholarly articles published in the Journal of Law and Religion, Midwest Social Sciences Journal, Indiana Magazine of History, Sixteenth Century Journal, Journal of Southern Religion and Journal of World History.