The Big Nap: Indianapolis as City of the Future

The Big Nap: Indianapolis as City of the Future

On the corner of 17th and Broadway, in an African-American section of Indianapolis, there is a vacant space comprising two unused lots, sections of two parking lots, and the edge of a small park. On the evening of April 4, 1968, hours after Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed in Memphis, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., climbed up on the back of a truck parked on a basketball court at this corner and delivered an ex tempore speech that was broadcast on local television and radio. Kennedy was just beginning his campaign in the Indiana presidential primary, running against a local candidate (Roger Branigin, the governor), a state Democratic machine that opposed him, and a newspaper chain (the Pulliam Star-News Newspapers) that openly fought his candidacy.

In Indianapolis, people either know this story by heart or do not know it at all. The corner itself remains uncommemorated. By local accounts, Kennedy disdained the caution of the police chief, traveled to a neighborhood so threatening (at least for that one night) that the police escort refused to follow him, and delivered his remarks; and although there were riots in 110 cities that night, Indianapolis remained calm. Kennedy went on to win the primary, his first victory in that presidential campaign. Two months later he was dead; a quote from the Indianapolis speech is etched on his gravestone at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Wurgraft | University of California Press Lima