Photo of Gladys Muhammad


“I feel honored; I feel blessed.”

Gladys Muhammad, a South Bend native, is a force of power, inspiration, and hope within not only the African American community of South Bend, but also in the city as a whole. Her involvement in preserving and sharing “the story of black life in South Bend” has been and continues to be pivotal in helping both existing and new generations understand and appreciate the many contributions the African American community has made in helping make South Bend the city it is today.

When various groups started exploring the possibility of turning the Natatorium, with its history of segregation and discriminatory practices, into a historical monument, Gladys was instrumental in helping secure partial funding through the African American Community Fund because as she observed of the fund, “when we created it, we always said that we wanted a legacy so that if we passed away people would know the African American community contributed something visible.”

More than helping to secure funding, Gladys contributed her time and energy from the beginning: “when I went, there were all white people sitting around; I was the only black person at the meeting.” Not to be deterred, Gladys continued attending meetings as more leaders from the African American community became involved in the project. Today the Natatorium stands as a reminder of where we were and where we can be: “It tells the story of how things change, and how it was integrated, and how African American people were involved in that change.”

  • South Bend Hall of Fame
  • Sagamore on the Wabash
  • Key to the City
  • YWCA Woman of the Year
  • Congressional Tribute by Joe Donnelly
  • First Director, YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter
  • Founder, Charles Martin Youth Center
  • Helped establish the Civil Rights Heritage Center
  • First Class, Washington, D.C. Change Agent Project
  • Board member, Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation
  • Board member, African American Community Fund
  • Board member, Civil Rights Heritage Center
  • Board member, Bridges Out of Poverty
  • Board member, Memorial Health Foundation

Information compiled from oral history collected by Sarah Lowe and the Congressional Record.