Father Boniface Hardin intended to call his autobiography Pickin’ Cotton on the Way to Church, referring to his experience as an African American Catholic. This biography uses his title to honor his intentions and insights.
Excluded from the seminaries in Kentucky because of his race, he enrolled in Saint Meinrad Seminary in Spencer County, Indiana. After completing his studies, he took his vows as a monk and was ordained a priest in 1959.
In 1965, Father Hardin accepted the position of associate pastor at Holy Angels Catholic Church, a predominately black parish in Indianapolis. Father Hardin became widely known in Indiana for speaking out against poverty, segregation and police brutality, engaging in social activism that was considered inappropriate for a priest.
Father Hardin soon left Holy Angels and, along with Sister Jane Schilling, opened the Martin Center, where they advocated full time for the poor and disenfranchised through a series of programs and services. Realizing the correlation between education and career advancement, Father Hardin and Sister Jane founded Martin University, the only predominately African American institution of higher learning in Indiana.
Author Nancy Van Note Chism moved to Indiana in 1999. She was professor of higher education and student affairs at Indiana University and associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at IUPUI. She retired in 2012 and currently is chair of the board of trustees of Martin University.
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Made possible by generous gifts from Michael G. Browning, Nancy and Grady Chism, John R. Goss, Michael and Kathryn Miller, Wayne and Susan Schmidt, and Dr. and Mrs. Gene E. Sease