Over the years many origins of the word “Hoosier” have been identified. Fisk University Professor William D. Piersen introduces a new character into Indiana history: Harry Hoosier, an 18th century African American Methodist minister, perhaps the most widely known black preacher of his time.
Born around 1750 near Fayetteville, North Carolina, Harry Hoosier moved—or was sold—to Henry Dorsey Gough’s plantation near Baltimore. Gough, a devout Methodist, had built a chapel that became a popular stopping place for Methodist preachers. It was there that Harry Hoosier—known as “Black Harry”—became a talented religious orator who traveled throughout the Appalachian frontier.
Since Hoosier—like most slaves—was illiterate, his name had no definite spelling, and the length of time he spent in Indiana remains undetermined. Still, Piersen argues that the Midwestern disciples of Harry Hoosier—including many Methodists who questioned slavery—came to be known as “Hoosiers.”