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Local historian John Charles Bryant passes away at age 84

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 7:37 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The community is mourning the death of a descendant of the first black family to permanently settle in South Bend.

The Powell family was also instrumental in building the Olivet A.M.E. Church in 1860, which was the first black church in the area.

Powell family descendant John Charles Bryant was 84 years old. He passed away on Jan. 3, 2022.

Bryant recently gave an extensive interview to WNIT for a documentary that aired in September.

Under the circumstances, WNIT reached out to share the footage with 16 News Now.

“My mother’s grandfather was a carpenter, and I understand that he built around eight homes here in South Bend so, so the home I live in is at 707 Harrison. My grandfather built that house in 1900. The house I live in is 120 years old,” Bryant said.

Bryant was born in South Bend and was a 1957 graduate of South Bend Central High School. His mother was the organist at Olivet A.M.E. for some 40 years.

“Wherever my mother went, I went with her, so I was raised around older people and so I listened to all this, and I guess it was just intriguing to me you know. That’s how I learned so much and know so much about the black history in this community.”

Bryant said the 1850 census indicates there were only 53 African Americans living in St. Joseph County at the time.

Bryant was a lifetime member of the Northern Indiana Center for History. He was involved with the NAACP and was a 2012 inductee to the South Bend Hall of Fame.

Bryant was also an avid supporter of local theater and set up a $10,000 arts scholarship in his parent’s name.

“I keep the name going. I keep it alive in this community, and as much as I can.”

Services will be held at St. Paul’s Memorial Church in South Bend. Services will take place at 1:00 p.m. and will be livestreamed on the church Facebook page.

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