Allen Safianow, professor emeritus of history at Indiana University Kokomo, continued his love for research and spent two years gathering information for his article, "Ryan White and Kokomo, Indiana: A City Remembers," published in Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. The Indiana Historical Society recognized his efforts and recently awarded him the Jacob Piatt Dunn Jr. award for the article explaining the impact Ryan White's 1985 fight to attend school had on Kokomo.
"I hope the community will come to see the important role this event played in our history, even though it received unfavorable attention from the media," he said. "It's a complex story. We really need to understand what happened, learn from what happened, and see it in a broader context."
Safianow and his team interviewed people who played key roles during Ryan White's efforts to attend classes at Western Middle School after being diagnosed with AIDS. White, who was 14 at the time, acquired the virus through an injection of Factor VIII, as part of his treatment for hemophilia.
He was pleased to receive the honor, to bring more attention to the oral history project he led for the Howard County Historical Society. The article contains excerpts from many of the interviews, chosen to show the personal impact the story had on the community, and why it is important to remember what happened.
The Howard County Historical Society received the 2012 Indiana History Outstanding Project Award for the project.
Safianow hopes attention from the award will encourage people to visit the local historical society, look through the transcripts, view the artifacts, listen to recordings of the interviews, and reflect on what was learned.
"It's a complicated story," he said. "To have many voices contribute can give people a better understanding of what was involved. We're hoping people will take an interest in what we've done, and it will be enlightening on many levels."
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana