Shortridge High School

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Shortridge High School
Shortridge High School Indianapolis Aug 2016.jpg
Shortridge High School.
Shortridge High School is located in Indianapolis
Shortridge High School
Shortridge High School is located in Indiana
Shortridge High School
Shortridge High School is located in the United States
Shortridge High School
Location3401 N. Meridian St., 46208 Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Coordinates39°49′8″N 86°9′19″W / 39.81889°N 86.15528°W / 39.81889; -86.15528Coordinates: 39°49′8″N 86°9′19″W / 39.81889°N 86.15528°W / 39.81889; -86.15528
Area10.9 acres (4.4 ha)
ArchitectKopf & Deery
Architectural styleClassical Revival
Part ofShortridge-Meridian Street Apartments Historic District (ID00000195)
NRHP reference No.83000078[1]
Added to NRHPSeptember 15, 1983

Shortridge High School is a public high school located in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. Shortridge is the home of the International Baccalaureate and arts and humanities programs of the Indianapolis Public Schools district.(IPS).[2] Originally known as Indianapolis High School, it opened in 1864 and is Indiana's oldest free public high school. New Albany High School (1853) was Indiana's first public high school, but was not initially free.

Author Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Shortridge class of 1940, said that Shortridge was:

"... my dream of an America with great public schools. I thought we should be the envy of the world with our public schools. And I went to such a public school. So I knew that such a school was possible. Shortridge High School in Indianapolis produced not only me, but the head writer on the I LOVE LUCY show (Madelyn Pugh). And, my God, we had a daily paper, we had a debating team, had a fencing team. We had a chorus, a jazz band, a serious orchestra. And all this with a Great Depression going on. And I wanted everybody to have such a school."[3]


19th century[edit]

Indianapolis High School (renamed Shortridge High School in 1896) opened in 1864 as the state of Indiana's first free public high school. Its original location (1864-1867) was in the former Ward 1 Elementary School at Vermont and New Jersey Streets. The second location (1867-1872) was in Circle Hall on the northwest quadrant of Monument Circle. The third location (1872-1885) was the former Baptist Female Seminary at Michigan and Pennsylvania Streets. This building was deemed unsafe and torn down to make way for a fourth building (1885-1928) on the same site. (Classes met in area churches while the new building was under construction.) Due to population shifts in Indianapolis in the 1920s, Indianapolis Public Schools decided to build a fifth building at the northeast corner of 34th and Meridian Streets. Construction began in 1927, and the school opened in 1928. This fifth iteration is the school's current building.[4]

Abram C. Shortridge was recruited to become school superintendent in 1863. Shortridge was a strict educator when it came to drilling students and faculty alike. However, he was also innovative in many ways, including the hiring of female teachers and the admission of African-American students.[5] Sarah D. Allen Oren Haynes, who taught at the high school from 1869 to 1873, later became the first female state librarian of Indiana and the first female professor at Purdue University.[6] By 1878, Shortridge High School served 502 students.[5] Roda Selleck, who began teaching art at the school in the 1880s, soon won acclaim for introducing "craftwork" – leather, pottery, jewelry, and metalwork – to the curriculum,[7] and later developed a line of pottery, "Selridge Pottery", designed by students. She remained at the school until her death in 1924.[8]

In 1876, Mary Alice Rann was the first African-American student to graduate from Shortridge High School.[9] There was a push for either integration in schools or the building of a new school for African-American students. Abram Shortridge, who had become the superintendent of IPS schools at the time, fought against the arguments from white parents, asking if they wanted to pay the taxes to build a new school just for her.[10] She was the first of a number of black students to graduate from Shortridge prior to the opening of Crispus Attucks High School.[11]

The Shortridge Senate was created in 1887 by Miss Laura Donnan.[12] High school juniors and seniors would meet at 2:30 every Friday afternoon. The senate was created in order to teach students about public speaking and politics. Based on the annual Shortridge yearbook of 1918,[13] the talking points included: daylight saving time, workmen's compensation, women's suffrage, amendments to abolish jury trials, eight-hour law, the metric system, and many others.

Found in senate records located at the Indiana Historical Society. Written in 1914-1915 by the senate of Shortridge. September 18, eight female students were instated into the senate. The senate was made up of a majority of young women.[14] Senators are actually students representing each actual Senator. In the case of women's suffrage, the debates the students had involved included arguments that were happening in the real debates and spanned three days, from September 25 to October 9, 1914.[15]

Early 20th century[edit]

Shortridge High School in 1904

In a 1903 football game against Wabash College, Wabash College coach Tug Wilson substituted an African-American left tackle by the name of Samuel Gordon, and the Shortridge captain "made a scene",[16] forfeiting the game.

Although minority students attended Shortridge from its opening, the majority of Shortridge High School students were white. This changed in 1927, when Indianapolis opened its first purposely-segregated all-black school, Crispus Attucks High School; up until then, the city had only followed school segregation by custom and not by law. Notably, the creation of Crispus Attucks was in large part due to the influence of a branch of the Ku Klux Klan led by D.C. Stephenson, on the city's school board[citation needed]. Regardless, those who lived in an area where they could attend either Crispus Attucks High School or Shortridge High School were allowed to choose which school they wanted to attend; many of these students chose to attend Shortridge.

In 1928, Shortridge High School moved from downtown Indianapolis to a new building at its current location at 34th and Meridian Street on the north side of Indianapolis.[17]

The environment in the school in the 1950s was described in the novel Going All The Way by Shortridge High alumnus Dan Wakefield (published in 1970 and adapted to film in 1997). In 1957, a Time Magazine article named Shortridge High as one of the top 38 high schools in the United States. At the same time, however, the school began to lose students to other schools, notably the newly opened North Central High School on the city's far-north side.

Shortridge students and faculty were involved in relief efforts for World War I. Faculty in charge included Flora Love, Rosa M. R. Mikels, Mary E. Sullivan, and Virginia Claybough. Their jobs were typing, filing, and clerical work. Under direction from Red Cross, both students and teachers also knitted socks, hats, and helmets. They also purchased War Bonds. The students and teachers also provided money for the war efforts and marched in parades. Laura Donnan even had a motto in her class that was, “A penny in France is worth two pennies in your pants.”[18]

Civil Rights Movement[edit]

Due to the changing racial makeup of the neighborhoods that fed Shortridge, some parents on the school's Parent-Teacher Association supported redrawing the Shortridge district to find a more even racial balance. By 1964, some felt that the school had reached a crisis. A protest march that fall from the school to Indianapolis Public Schools offices was supported by 200 students. In 1965, the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners turned Shortridge into an all-academic high school. Beginning in the 1966–67 school year, an entrance examination was required for enrollment. In the 1966–67 school year only 272 freshmen enrolled, 46% of whom were black. Though efforts were made over the next four years to increase enrollment, they were not effective. The 1966 elections saw the school board change, including the loss of Richard Lugar, a Shortridge High graduate and academic plan supporter, who ran for, and was elected as, mayor of the city of Indianapolis. By 1967, the new school board voted 5–2 to abolish the short-lived ‘Shortridge Plan’.

As the 1960s progressed, so-called "white flight" in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the school led to a predominantly-black student body. During the 1950–1970 period, the racial demographics of the Shortridge district began to change rapidly. As an example, the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood, a part of the Shortridge district, changed from 82% white to 20% white).

The United States Department of Justice filed a suit in 1968 charging de jure segregation in Indianapolis. IPS responded with a desegregation plan which addressed only one of the three underlying charges. In 1971, U.S. District Judge S. Hugh Dillin found the IPS Board of School Commissioners to be guilty of de jure segregation.[19]

Many large and small protests and causes occurred at Shortridge during the late 1960s. This was a trend seen at other local high schools, colleges, and American society in general. One in particular is sometimes referred to as "The Shortridge Incident."

In February 1969, Shortridge student Otto Breeding was arrested for "disorderly conduct" after a disagreement with school officials over appropriate clothing. He had been asked to not wear a T-shirt advertising a radical black organization. Students who felt this was unfair attempted to disrupt the school, pulling fire alarms, and chanting “Black Power” in the halls. The next day an ad hoc group of students presented the assistant principal with four demands. The response to the petition did not satisfy them. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra was scheduled to present a concert the next day in the school's historic auditorium, Caleb Mills Hall. Approximately twenty students rose and left as the orchestra played "The Star-Spangled Banner". The protesters then congregated at a youth project run by the Reverend Luther Hicks. Reverend Hicks calmed the students and helped them to plan a non-violent protest. The students returned to Shortridge and gathered in front of the building and shouted various protest chants (e.g. “Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud.”). As the protest continued, the police were called, and thirty students and adults were taken to the Marion County Jail. Most were charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. One civil rights leader, Griffin Bell, was charged with inciting a riot. Marion County Prosecutor Noble Pearcy attempted to have the minor students declared "incorrigible" in an attempt to stop school unrest. This caused mixed reactions within the community, leading some of the city's religious leaders to side with the students. While the charges wound their way through the courts, a "freedom school" was set up to help the suspended students keep up with their academic work. The case eventually reached the Indiana Supreme Court to decide jurisdiction. Eventually, all charges against the students were dismissed and three civil rights leaders were given fines, with one receiving six months at the Indiana State Prison Farm.[19]

Recent years[edit]

Shortridge High School was closed for several years beginning in 1981. Following a major renovation, Shortridge was then reopened in 1984 as a junior high school for grades 7 and 8. In 1993, grade 6 was added to make Shortridge a middle school. In 2009, a high school magnet program for grades 9 to 12 that was focused on law and public policy was added. The middle school grades were later dropped. In 2015, the law and public policy magnet program was moved to Arsenal Technical High School and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program was moved from Gambold Preparatory High School to Shortridge High School. In 2018, the entire Indianapolis Public Schools district was reorganized so that all high school students would choose which school they would attend. Several schools were closed in order to strengthen the four remaining high schools: Shortridge, Crispus Attucks, Washington, and Arsenal Tech. In addition to providing a typical high school curriculum, each high school now offers a concentrated program in a specific field. Shortridge retained its International Baccalaureate program and added the system's Arts and Humanities program that had been previously hosted at the former Broad Ripple High School. Out of 374 ranked, public high schools in Indiana, Shortridge was listed as the 130th best in 2022 by U.S. News & World Report.[20]

Other Items of Note:

In 2013, the band Tenth Avenue North performed in Caleb Mills Hall. Previously, in 1981, Carl Perkins performed there as well.

The Shortridge Daily Echo[edit]

In 1898, the school established a daily newspaper, The Shortridge Daily Echo. It was the first daily high school newspaper in the United States.[21] It continued its daily status until the 1970s, when it was converted to a weekly publication. Kurt Vonnegut Jr, and Donald Ring Mellett are two notable alumni who served as editors of the Echo.[5]

The paper won many awards over the years[example needed]. In 1981, its final year of its initial run, a much-abbreviated Echo still won the second place overall award from the Columbia University Scholastic Press Association. Michael N. Selby and Edie Cassell were the last co-editors-in-chief, and Chris Keys was the last sports editor of the Shortridge Weekly Echo when it ceased publication with the school's closure in 1981. When Shortridge was reopened as a high school in 2009, students brought back the Echo as well and has been published as either a daily or weekly.

Influential women in Shortridge history[edit]

May Wright Sewall taught English and German from 1872 to 1880[22] and was influential in the women's suffrage movement.[23]

Laura Donnan was an active mentor, teaching Latin, history, and geometry. She taught for 45 years starting in 1883. In addition, she was also the coach of the women's basketball team and the first sponsor of the Shortridge Daily Echo.[24][25]

Charity Dye taught English at Shortridge from 1900 to 1912.[26] She is known for her production of plays based on historical events This led to her to be appointed to Indiana's historical commission, the only woman on the commission. She was an advocate for women's suffrage, and authored a pamphlet urging the observation of Peace Day on May 18, 1912, in Indiana. School #27 was named after her. She also authored The James Whitcomb Riley Reader, Some Torch Bearers in Indiana, and The Story-Teller’s Art, among others. Dye organized the Browning Society of Indianapolis. Because of her influence, the Charity Dye Library was established in the original Shortridge building.[27]

Mary Ritter Beard graduated as valedictorian of her high school class at Shortridge in 1893.[28] She later went on to be influential in the women's suffrage movement.


In a state where basketball is king, Shortridge High had its moment in the sun in the 1967–68 season. The Blue Devils ran up a 17-4 record, reaching the final game of the Indiana state championship, only to lose by eight points; they finished the season at 25-5 (.833). However, over the years Shortridge High won state championships in golf (five titles, three times runners-up), wrestling (twice), track and field (twice, and runners-up twice), and cross country (twice, and runners-up twice).[29]

Late in the 1970s the Blue Devils began to emerge as baseball power in the city. The Blue Devils reached the sectional finals in 1979, despite fielding a team of mostly sophomores. Notably Eric Johnson, a sophomore transfer from southern California, set a school record in 1979 by posting 12 Runs batted in, in a single game against Arsenal Technical High School.

Notable alumni[edit]

Frank J. Anderson
William E. McAnulty Jr.
Madelyn Pugh
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Sharon E. Watkins


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "Absolute News Manager.NET V5.0 : Licensed to Butler University". Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  3. ^ PBS (13 April 2007). "NOW – A Tribute To Kurt Vonnegut – PBS". Archived from the original on 2009-09-26. Retrieved 8 May 2017 – via YouTube.
  4. ^ a b Butsch Freeland, Sharon. "Historic Indianapolis (HI) Mailbag: Indianapolis' First Public Schools". Historic Indianapolis. Retrieved 2021-08-30.
  5. ^ a b c I4647 G38 1985, Laura S. Gaus, "Shortridge High School 1864–1981 In Retrospect" (1985)
  6. ^ "Story of an interesting life". Clinton Republican. May 2, 1907. p. 1 – via Ohio History Connection.; reprinted from the Sault Ste. Marie Times, April 22, 1907
  7. ^ Barry Shifman (1993). The Arts & Crafts Metalwork of Janet Payne Bowles. Indiana University Press. pp. 17–. ISBN 0-936260-58-0.
  8. ^ a b Judith Vale Newton and Carol Ann Weiss (2004). Skirting the Issue: Stories of Indiana's Historical Women Artists. Indiana Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87195-177-0.
  9. ^ "Indianapolis Collected: The Shortridge Vision - Historic Indianapolis | All Things Indianapolis History". Historic Indianapolis | All Things Indianapolis History. 2013-07-06. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  10. ^ McPhee, Laura. "Circle City Sheroes". NUVO. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  11. ^ Taylor, John. "African-American Education in Indiana" (PDF).
  12. ^ The Citizen. George Junior Republic. 1911.
  13. ^ "Annual, 1918 :: Shortridge High School". Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  14. ^ Woyshner, Christine; Bohan, Chara Haeussler (2012-09-06). Histories of Social Studies and Race: 1865-2000. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137007544.
  15. ^ Shortridge Student Senate Records, 1914-1915, Box 14, BV 2389, Student Senate Records, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana.
  16. ^ "Feature: The Team That Tackled Old Jim Crow". 1903-09-24. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  17. ^ "Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database (SHAARD)" (Searchable database). Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. Retrieved 2016-08-01. Note: This includes Helene Arehart, Aaron Perry, and Lynn Molzan (April 1983). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Shortridge High School" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) and Accompanying photographs
  18. ^ Bardon, Zoe. "Retelling SHS Stories: Shortridgers Active in World War I Aid". Daily Echo. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  19. ^ a b Scott D Seay, “The Shortridge Incident: Christian Theological Seminary as an agent of Reconciliation” CTS journal, Encounter, Spring 2007
  20. ^ "Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, IN".
  21. ^ Glenn Berggoetz (April 2, 1998). "Kurt Vonnegut's Biography". Archived from the original on 2009-10-27. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  22. ^ "May Eliza Wright Sewall | American educator and reformer". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  23. ^ "Retro Indy: May Wright Sewall". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  24. ^ Woyshner, Christine; Bohan, Chara Haeussler (2012-09-06). Books for Your Classroom. ISBN 9781137007544. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  25. ^ Null, J. Wesley (2011). American Educational History Journal: Volume 38 #1 & 2. Information Age Publishing. ISBN 978-1617355110.
  26. ^ "Our History". IPS.
  27. ^ "Charity Dye". Moment of Indiana History - Indiana Public Media. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  28. ^ "Mary Ritter Beard". Moment of Indiana History - Indiana Public Media. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  29. ^ IHSAA. "Indiana High School Athletic Association, Inc". Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  30. ^ "Shortridge Annual 1956 "Frank Anderson" (Shortridge High School, Indianapolis, Indiana)". Generations Network. 1956. p. 106. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  31. ^ "Shortridge Annual 1972 "Charles Jordan" (Shortridge High School, Indianapolis, Indiana)". Generations Network. 1972. p. 115. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  32. ^ Marcus, Frederick R., "Albert William Levi and the Moral Imagination" (Ph.D. diss, Emory University, 2003), p. 125.
  33. ^ Duberman, Martin (1993), Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community, p. 285. W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-8101-2594-0
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  38. ^ Johnson, Dirk (January 20, 1990). "Man in the News: Woodrow Augustus Myers Jr.; A Commissioner Who Knows Strife". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  39. ^ "Shortridge Annual 1938 "Madelyn Laverne Pugh" (Shortridge High School, Indianapolis, Indiana)". Generations Network. 1938. p. 142. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  40. ^ Charles Latham Jr. (February 1993). "Henry J. Richardson Papers: Historical Sketch". Black History News and Notes. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society (51): 1.
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  43. ^ "Shortridge Annual 1972 "Sharon Elizabeth Watkins" (Shortridge High School, Indianapolis, Indiana)". Generations Network. 1972. p. 114. Retrieved 7 July 2020.

External links[edit]