Helen Pope grew up on the west side of South Bend, Indiana during the 1920s. She watched her city grow and change over the eighty years she lived here.
She earned a nursing license from Ivy Tech and a degree in early childhood development from IU South Bend. She worked as a nurse at the old Northern Indiana Children’s hospital, back when they segregated their patients by race. Helen helped end that horrible practice.
But when South Bend started losing its factory jobs in the 1960s, African Americans were among the hardest hit. More and more jobs needed college degrees, so without equal access to higher education, lots of positions were out of reach.
Helen did what she could to help. She worked with women in need as a YWCA director, and coordinated President Lyndon Johnson's Model Cities program on the West Side. She worked with the school system, with the NAACP, with Hering House, with the Urban League, and so many others.
In the 1980s, she became the local coordinator of the History of Black Women in Indiana project. So she didn't just make history in South Bend—she made an effort to share stories from across the state of black women before her who also made history.
Helen sat down with the Civil Rights Heritage Center twice in 2001 to talk about the ways she made history.
Created and produced by Kevin Tidmarsh; Hosted and co-produced by George Garner
Want to learn more about South Bend’s history? View the photographs and documents that helped create it. Visit Michiana Memory at http://michianamemory.sjcpl.org/.
Title music, “History Explains Itself,” from Josh Spacek. Visit his page on the Free Music Archive, http://www.freemusicarchive.org/.