Research on early Bloomington burial records among MLK Day volunteer opportunities

Indiana University and the City of Bloomington have for several years celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day as “A Day On, Not a Day Off” – an opportunity for focused community service and volunteerism rather than simply a break from work or school.

You can find a lengthy list of projects at Bloomington’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commission website, along with more information on King Day activities in news releases from IU and the city.

Martin Luther King  Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Included this year is a unique opportunity: An invitation from the Monroe County History Center to conduct research on burial locations of the city’s early African-American residents, many of whom are buried in unmarked plots in local cemeteries. The work will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday.

During the day, participants will learn how to use census records, burial records, local newspapers, and online resources. Snacks and lunch will be provided … Plan to bring your laptop, tablet, and/or research questions and join in the conversation on Monday, Jan. 19. Please register by calling 812-332-2517 ext. 2 or emailing

The History Center also plans to organize a workday later this spring in which volunteers will clean and restore headstones. The center will provide more information about that closer to the event.

Lou Malcomb, a member of the center’s cemetery committee, said cemetery records seldom identify individuals by race, so determining who is interred where will require the lengthy task of matching census or death records that indicate race with names listed in cemetery records. Volunteers will begin with census year 1900 and then move forward decade by decade.

In addition to volunteer activities, Martin Luther King Jr. Day will include several featured events:

  • A showing of the film “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin” along with a question-and-answer session with filmmaker Bennett Singer Sunday night at Indiana Memorial Union Whittenberger Auditorium.
  • An MLK Leadership Breakfast Monday morning with Indianapolis attorney Myra Selby, the first African-American to serve on the Indiana Supreme Court, as keynote speaker.
  • A Bloomington community King Day celebration Monday evening with a keynote talk by Bennett Singer, musical performances and other presentations.

See the IU Martin Luther King Jr. celebration web page for more information.