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African American Firefighters

Firefighters and truck
Black firefighters at Station 1
Byronna Slaughter
First female firefighter in Indianapolis,
Byrona Slaughter

On May 19, 1876 Fire Chief W. O. Sherwood appointed the first four black men to the Indianapolis Fire Department to replace four white firefighters on Hose Company 9, located at 31 West Saint Joseph Street. This station, eventually renumbered as Station 1 and relocated to 441 Indiana Avenue, grew to become an all-black double company firehouse, with approximately 24 firefighters who rotated through two 24-hour shifts.

Black firefighters remained segregated from the rest of the Fire Department until the practice was officially ended on Jan. 1, 1960. Hired before integration in 1955, Joseph Kimbrew became the first black Fire Chief of the Indianapolis Fire Department on January 19, 1987.

But Chief Kimbrew was not the only trailblazer. The first black substitute firefighters were hired, including Herbert Miller, Henry Tanner, Edward Rogers and Dwayne Robinson (now a retired captain). The first black District Chief was Pellman Johnson. The first female hired by the Indianapolis Fire Department was a black woman named Byronna Slaughter, who was sworn in on March 3, 1978.

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