Indiana University South Bend Archives
1700 Mishawaka Avenue P.O. Box 7111
South Bend, Indiana 46634
Phone: (574) 520 – 4392
Creator: Civil Rights Heritage Center
Title: J. Chester and Elizabeth Fletcher Allen Collection of the Civil Rights Heritage Center
Extent: One (1) bankers box, one (1) document box (1.65 cubic feet), and twenty-six (26) books of varied sizes (38 ¼ linear inches)
Mr. J. Chester Allen and his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Fletcher Allen, were prominent African American attorneys in the South Bend, Indiana area. The Allens lived a relatively privileged lifestyle; however, they were very aware that their privilege necessitated a responsibility to help other African Americans who suffered injustices – social, economical, and educational. As lawyers, they worked within the system and with such groups as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Urban League (among others) to bring about positive social change. Their efforts brought an end to the Engman Natatorium’s exclusion of African Americans, and they helped bring equity to war contracts in Michiana industries for both African Americans and women during World War II. Their family law practice often took on pro-bono cases for those who could not afford lawyers of their caliber.
J. Chester Allen was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island on December 12, 1900. After graduating with a law degree from Boston College, Mr. Allen moved to South Bend in 1929. Elizabeth Fletcher, born in Chicago, Illinois on September 16, 1905, married J. Chester in 1928 and moved to South Bend three years later. Together, they began the Allen and Allen law firm, one of the first husband and wife teams in South Bend that practiced law together. The couple was responsible for many firsts among African Americans in the area: Mr. Allen represented St. Joseph County in the Indiana House of Representatives (serving from 1939 to 1943), was a South Bend City Councilman (serving from 1960 to 1963), President of the St. Joseph County Bar Association (1969 to 1970), and more. Mrs. Fletcher Allen was the first female African American lawyer in both the city of South Bend and the state of Indiana.1
Scope and Content Note:
As of the time of this writing in 2014, the Allen’s son, Dr. Irving Allen, and Dr. Allen’s wife Betty Allen, currently reside in Massachusetts. The items in this collection were donated when they visited the Natatorium on May 21, 2013. Paper and photographic materials are stored in boxes and organized alphabetically by title. A small amount of three-dimensional materials are stored in a banker’s box. Additionally, there are twenty-six books, some of which are quite fragile. These books are stored outside boxes, organized alphabetically by the primary author’s last name.