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A Living Textbook: My Experience at the African American Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

The African American Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa deserves better. Iowa, despite having very white, has proven itself to be pretty progressive throughout history. That is why my expectations were high. Well, I left the museum dissatisfied, perplexed, and curious about Iowan classrooms. Specifically, I wonder how Black history is being taught and what of Black history is being taught in elementary and secondary school classrooms. My dissatisfaction spawned from the emptiness of the museum. The purpose of a museum is to fill in what classrooms leave blank, yet this African American Museum is just a textbook that people can physically wander through.

The African American Museum is a textbook because displayed textbook information. Additionally there was information about prominent black Iowans, but otherwise, I was given the textbook basics. The basics include the Civil War to Reconstruction Era and the 1950s through the late 1960s. In many curriculums, black people are almost nonexistent in other chapters/decades. This true for both secondary and elementary school textbooks. Often times, elementary school textbooks contain even less; perhaps knowing about America’s racist history is too much for children under the age of 11.

dummySimilar to textbooks, museums tend to be culturally insensitive. Even with the best intentions to not water down history while still being compassionate towards the people impacted, they fall short when people  outside of that demographic are in charge of content. I initially thought the African American Museum was ran by black people, and it is. Two out of the six staff members are black. The curator just so happens to be one of the four white people listed on the faculty page. However, I knew already knew this. It was obvious when I came across a piece of lynching rope incased in glass. For some reason the curator thought that was an important artifact that needed to be preserved. I thought it was quite triggering and offensive. This highlights the lack of compassion needed for multicultural education and an equitable pedagogy. This type of insensitivity and ignorance is commonly found in textbooks as well. Within a book designed to help teachers teach social studies to elementary students, I found an exercise about Rosa Parks. The creator of the lesson plan had gone out of their way to tell the “child-friendly” version of the bus story, yet the n-word was spelled out and included.


With that being said, how history is taught is left at the discretion of the people writing the textbooks, the people deciding what goes into museum exhibits, and the people teaching the information. It is important that black history can be cultivated and taught by black people. At the very least, black people should in the conversation of how the knowledge is delivered.

Buxton Iowa: Black Utopia

To be Black at the turn of the 20 century was to be a resilient survivor. Black People have and continue to create communities for themselves as a form of self-preservation. Iowa, a majority white state, had thriving black communities throughout its history since the 1800s and the most famous town is Buxton, Iowa. Buxton was a famous mining town known for its equitable social dynamics that existed through the late 1800s into the early 1900s. Iowa’s Black community isn’t as nationally recognized as the black communities such as New Orleans, Atlanta, D.C and etc…. Iowa isn’t readily perceived as a welcoming state for the black community and it’s important to understand how Black communities have sustained themselves in a majority white communities.

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Buxton was founded in a county that was a stop along the Underground Railroad and Iowa had recently passed a legislation declaring that Black People were entitled to same amenities as White People. The Consolidated Coal Company founded Buxton Iowa and recruited Black People from the South by promising them steady employment, above average wages, good housing, and the absence of racial discrimination. The CCC did treat all employers alike and Superintendent Ben Buxton did not tolerate mistreatment of Black employees and fired such those who were discriminatory. Buxton, Iowa was unique.

Buxton Iowa 1900s

Black Laborers were paid relatively well. White and Black families led relatively comfortable lives. Average income in Buxton was much higher compared the average income in mining towns. Buxton women would take in multiple borders at a time and extra income enabled to families to participate in social functions. A majority of the men were employed at the mines, but only a small percentage of Black men held managerial positions in comparison to White men. White men also had many economic opportunities outside of the mines while Black men were mostly miners. The majority of Black women were employed as domestic worked while White women had autonomous careers such as bookkeepers, farmers, and postmasters. Black people worked low paying hard labor jobs in comparison to their White counterparts.

Men employed at the mines

Men employed at the mines

Buxton social life was segregated. Iowa had ruled that segregation was unconstitutional but the Black and White communities had preferred to remain to themselves. Religion was important to the Buxton Community; many practiced their faiths in Black or White churches. The town itself was not integrated: there were majority Black and White neighborhoods. People of different ethnic background interacted at the company store. A majority of the town’s necessities and goods could be bought at the company store. The company store was mostly staffed by the White men and very few Black men were employed: their reasoning that there were less qualified Black employees. Buxton had three schools and two were integrated. Black and White’s students were educated in the same classroom and the majority of their teachers were White women. One of the schools was located in all White neighborhood and only educated white students. As the population grew the schools became more diverse.

Buxton Schools

Buxton’s social life did not integrate until the YMCA was built. The YMCA was built to support Black men socially but soon its services to the entire community. The YMCA cost twenty thousand to build and CC contributed twelves thousands of dollars to help fund the project. Men, women, youth, and children participated in the YMCA’s various activities and literary clubs. Women were responsible for organizing community activities. The YMCA helped invigorate Black life and differential Buxton Blacks from Black communities that were settled throughout the nation. Buxton Black was thriving amidst the discrimination that ran amok throughout the era. As the era of Buxton was ending, Black people were employed as doctors, dentist, lawyers, and school presidents. Many Buxton former residents declared that Buxton was the Black Utopia when compared to other cities such as Des Moines.

Buxton YMCA


Works Cited:

Beran Janice A. Diamond in Iowa: Black, Buxton, and Baseball. The Journal of Negro History Vol. 75, No. 3/4 (Summer – Autumn, 1990), pp. 81-95 (15 pages)Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

Buxton: A Black Utopia in the Heartland, An Expanded Edition

Dorothy Schwieder, Joseph Hraba, Elmer Schwieder: Buxton: A Black Utopia in the Heartland, An Expanded Edition
Copyright Date: 2003 Published by: University of Iowa Press
Picture of a Latino man in his store from a small blog website.

Immigration in rural Iowa: The economic impact of Latinos in Marshalltown

In the United States, Latinos are the nation’s largest and fastest growing ethnic minority group. As their population spreads throughout the country, they diversify the culture of the communities which they encounter. It wasn’t always this way though, the original purpose for being here trails back to their migration patterns in rural cities in states like Iowa. During the farm crisis in the 1980’s, transnational corporate management decided to expand meat packing plants, creating a vast amount of jobs for the city’s population (Flora and Tapp 278). Granted that there were some adults willing to fill the jobs, the rural cities did not have enough workers for the companies to function properly due to the aging population. As a result, a major labor shortage sparked within the meat packing plants that survived on low-skill labor. In order to fulfill this shortage, companies searched for foreign help as a way to ensure that they do not lose profits. So, this massive amount of jobs available created a “pull” of immigrants, especially from Mexico, to travel thousands of miles away from the families to fill the available jobs. Although the community’s political values contradicted the current immigration status, Latinos are the biggest contributors to the survival of rural Iowa due to the fulfillment of necessary jobs, the continuity of the local economy, and the cultivation of diversity in a mainly white society. A perfect example of this complex immigration process is within the town of Marshalltown, Iowa and its large Hispanic population. Throughout the following research, I will describe the history of Marshalltown to explain what jobs Latinos came to fill, other ways they earn money, and how their perseverance to stay improved the economy of Marshalltown.

Picture of the map of Iowa illustrating where Marshalltown is located.

Marshalltown, Iowa

Marshalltown is a very small city located in the middle of Iowa (as illustrated in picture 1) and its population was primarily Caucasian, just like many of the rural towns in Iowa. For most of Iowa’s history, rural cities mainly consisted of Caucasian, Anglo, and Christian residents. These demographics of the town changed dramatically a decade after the farm crisis. During the 1990’s, “Marshalltown’s total population was 25,178 of whom 248 (0.9%) were Latino but in 2000, the total population was 26,009, of whom 2,265 (12.6%) were Latino” (Grey 364). After just 10 years, the Latino population grew enormously by almost 10 times and it keeps on increasing every year. With the increased amount of immigrants present, the town encountered a shift in its culture never seen before. Since many members of the community never dealt with such diversity in their rural environment until now, a lot of misconceptions flourished such as immigrants coming to take the town’s jobs, not paying taxes, and the tendency to demonize Mexicans as inducing drug use and smuggling meth from Mexico (Flora and Tapp 291). Due to these misconceptions, racism was common between the locals since they were not completely aware of how to deal with the sudden change of demographics. As the years passed on, more Latinos appeared in public sectors (as illustrated in Picture 2)  to represent and encourage the community despite the racism present in the town. Hence, the history of Marshalltown reveals that Latinos are now a big part of the community and they do not plan on leaving.

Picture from the Department of Defense from the annual Latino Heritage Festival.

Clothing display during the annual Latino Heritage Festival

Since Latinos contribute to a large portion of the demographics in Marshalltown, my research analyzes how their presence impacts the economic status of the town. There are a lot of studies done on the Hispanic footprint in small rural cities, but my research focuses on Marshalltown, Iowa. My conclusions may not contribute much to the broad implications of Latinos around the country, but it will cover a new angle to the topic by investigating a city that was primarily Anglo but then embraced diversity due to the large migration. The data for this paper is based on researchers gathering information from Latino participants and statistics on renown sources like the United States Census Bureau.

During the farm crisis, Marshalltown’s companies would have suffered from bankruptcy since too many jobs were left empty. This complication arose from the town’s aging population, dropping birth rates, and high school graduates leaving for bigger cities (Hotek 187). Due to the lack of employees, the town’s economy headed towards its demise since companies and stores struggled to stay financially afloat. It wasn’t until Latino immigrants arrived in the town and filled the jobs, providing an instantaneous economic boost for the local companies. Inside of the town lies the Swift Company, the third largest pork plant in the world, which employed the majority of these immigrants; in fact, 56% of the workers were Latino by the end of 1998 (Grey 368). Once the immigrants arrived in town, the meat packing plant took the majority of them since a lot of their positions consisted of low-skilled jobs. Although the company produces major profits now, they heavily depend on Latinos to succeed. During the analysis of the workforce in Marshalltown, it is clear that the jobs necessary for the economy to strive are filled by Latino immigrants; therefore, without them, the town would likely suffer another economic crisis similar to that of the farm crisis.

Jobs in the meatpacking industry provided some income for Latinos but the jobs were too dangerous, so they later resorted to other ways of earning money. The expansion of meatpacking plants removed the need for professional meat cutter resulting in the need for low-skilled workers. Subsequent of these management changes, Latinos fit the requirement since they are non-English speakers and their skills in management are low. However, the large Hispanic population in town sparked a new way of making money: entrepreneurship. According to local realtors, some [Latinos] buy homes, some open shops and restaurants, and some learn English and find jobs outside of the packing plant (Grey ). Although they didn’t speak English, Spanish is enough for them to use the money earned from their previous work and build a small shop in their neighborhood (as illustrated in picture 3). Due to the harsh working conditions in a packing plant, Latino’s entrepreneurship leads them to build a business as a way to earn money in a safer manner.

Picture of a Latino man in his store from a small blog website.

Latino entrepreneur and his small store

In rural Iowa, specially in Marshalltown, Latinos are the major contributor to the economic stability of the town after their large immigration due to the farm crisis in 1980. Once here, their immigration provided workers for the companies to survive financially, the economy to bloom as a result of their entrepreneurship, and a permanently diversified community mixed with the previous Anglo residents with the new Latinos. Therefore, it is important to set aside the political differences and embrace the diversity for the future success of any community in Marshalltown and the rest of the country.



Works Cited

Text Sources

Flora, C. B., Flora, J. L., & Tapp, R. J. (2000). Meat, Meth, and Mexicans: Community Responses to Increasing Ethnic Diversity. Community Development Society. Journal, 31(2), 277-299.

Grey, Mark A. “Unofficial Sister Cities: Meatpacking Labor Migration Between Villachuato, Mexico, and Marshalltown, Iowa.” Human Organization, vol. 61, no. 4, 2002, pp. 364–376., doi:10.17730/humo.61.4.8xhdfg6jggqccb2c


J., B., & Cordero-Guzmán, H. (2007). Latino Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship in the United States: An Overview of the Literature and Data Sources. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 613(1), 18–31.


Image Sources

“Legacy Homepage.” U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE,

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,óng-àn:Map_of_Iowa_highlighting_Marshall_County.svg.

Governor Robert Ray and the Tai Dam Population in Iowa


The Tai Dam people originated from what is now modern day Northern Vietnam. While living in their ancestral homeland, the Tai Dam people developed a culture unique from surrounding empires such as India and China [1]. Following the second World War, the Tai Dam found themselves stuck in the middle of a conflict between the French–who were attempting to reclaim the colony–and Vietnamese communists–who desired independence [2]. A large section of the Tai Dam people sided with the French in the conflict and had to flee their homeland in 1952 when the French could no longer hold their position in the area. Following their removal from their homeland, the Tai Dam were uprooted multiple times over the next twenty years [3]. Eventually it became clear to the elders of the community that in order to ensure the safety of their people, they would have to leave the country of Vietnam all together.

Map of Vietnam

The flag of the Tai Dam people.


Former USAID employee and friend of the Tai Dam people, Arthur Crisfield heard of their struggles  in Thailand and rushed to the area to help. He contacted several newspapers across the globe to inform the world of the harsh conditions that the Tai Dam were living in. He also sent letters to thirty United States governors asking them to open their states to Tai Dam refugees [4]. In the end only one of the governors responded to Crisfield’s pleas, Governor Robert Ray of Iowa. Governor Ray recognized the difficult situation that the Tai Dam people were in and the potential for Iowans to assist them [5]. Ray committed to opening Iowa up to the Tai Dam refugees and created the Governor’s Task Force which was later rebranded the Iowa Refugee Service Center (IRSC). The task force signed an agreement with the US State Department that stated that Iowa would be allowed to accept 1,200 refugees over the course of two years. In 1975, 633 Tai Dam refugees became the first to resettle in the state of Iowa.



Governor Ray knew that the refugees needed more than a place to live once they arrived in Iowa, they would also need jobs that could support their families. Finding jobs became the prime focus of the Task Force. Soon after the Tai Dam were relocated to Iowa, they began to work full-time jobs that had been lined up for them. Ray also realized that the Tai Dam people would need guidance on a personal level. They paired each Tai Dam family with a ‘welcome’ or ‘host’ family that would assist them while they were settling into their new surroundings. These hosts helped find jobs and housing for the Tai Dam, register children in school and learn how to handle the brutal Iowa winters. Within a year many of the Tai Dam families that had immigrated to the country reported that they possessed steady employment and were adjusting  well to their new home of Iowa. The resettlement plan had worked so well that only a handful of the families that immigrated to Iowa needed any sort of government aid after their first two years in the country. 



Today Iowa is home to more Tai Dam people than anywhere else outside of Southeast Asia. Around half of the Tai Dam in the state of Iowa live in the Tai Dam Village located in the capital city of Des Moines. Here they continue to honor their cultural heritage through holiday celebrations and the preservation of their native language. Though the transition to Iowa was in few ways easy, the Tai Dam people have found a new land and home in the state. Many consider Iowa to be full of conservative narrow minded white people, however the successes of the IRSC show how Iowans are capable of accepting diversity into the heart of the Midwest.

Pagoda in Des Moines, Iowa at the Robert Ray Asian Gardens.


The Tai Dam resettlement process illustrates that with the support of the government, the welcoming arms of the current population and the resilience of those in search of a better life, immigration is possible. Not only is it possible, but it can occur without the annihilation of the immigrant culture. The Tai Dam population in Iowa is thriving to this very day.

Sadly despite the success of Governor Robert Ray’s task force, few people remember the story of the Tai Dam people here in Iowa or the country. In the wake of the United States current immigration crises, both the country’s government and the general population should look to Iowa to see how successful immigration can occur.




[1] Bell, Sue E., and Whiteford, Michael B. “Tai Dam Health Care Practices: Asian Refugee Women in Iowa.” Social Science & Medicine 24, no. 4 (1987): 317–325.

[2]Walsh, Matthew R. The Good Governor : Robert Ray and the Indochinese Refugees of Iowa Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2017.

[3]Walsh, Matthew R. The Good Governor : Robert Ray and the Indochinese Refugees of Iowa Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2017.

[4]Walsh, Matthew R. The Good Governor : Robert Ray and the Indochinese Refugees of Iowa Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2017.

[5]“Matsalyn Brown Keeps Her Tai Dam Culture Alive in Iowa.” Targeted News Service. Washington, D.C.: Targeted News Service, June 13, 2018.

[6]Walsh, Matthew R. The Good Governor : Robert Ray and the Indochinese Refugees of Iowa Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2017.

[7]Walsh, Matthew R. The Good Governor : Robert Ray and the Indochinese Refugees of Iowa Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2017.

[8]Bell, Sue E., and Whiteford, Michael B. “Tai Dam Health Care Practices: Asian Refugee Women in Iowa.” Social Science & Medicine 24, no. 4 (1987): 317–325.

[9]“Matsalyn Brown Keeps Her Tai Dam Culture Alive in Iowa.” Targeted News Service. Washington, D.C.: Targeted News Service, June 13, 2018.

Posse and its Impact at Grinnell

  “I never would’ve dropped out of college if I’d had my posse with me.”

This is the influential quote that started The Posse Foundation in 1989, designed to give high- achieving students a “posse” or support group to cope with the struggles one may face in college. According to Grinnell President Raynard Kingston, “with Posse’s aid, about a quarter of each freshman class are ‘students from underrepresented backgrounds,’ “ providing the campus with diversity and students of different experiences from all walks of life. Posse is an important part of Grinnell’s history, encompassing the time frame  from when Grinnell enrolled its first round of students in 2000 to its last group, in 2016. A significant number of Posse students fill leadership positions at Grinnell, from SGA cabinet roles to club cabinet positions, and introduces diversity to elite private schools that are largely white spaces. The program was ended for reasons undisclosed to many students and faculty, but it undoubtedly deserves proper recognition. I will use faculty meeting minutes, interviews, and online articles as supporting evidence for this project.

According to Posse creator Deborah Bial in a previous interview with Tom Walsh in 2004, Posse isn’t “a minority program, [nor] a need-based program,” but a program that awards “merit-based, leadership scholarships to extraordinary young people who come from extremely different backgrounds who … bring a lot to these campuses and will get a lot from these campuses.” She again reiterates that contrary to what one may believe, Posse is “ a strength-based program, not a deficit-based program.” Posse was created in 1989, and recruits students in ten cities: Atlanta, the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York or Washington, D.C. It is available to all students regardless of background. Each Posse group consists of ten students, and recipients of scholarships receive leadership training in the spring semester of their senior year of high school. Posse also has an impressive 90% nation-wide graduation rate.

According to director of postgraduate transitions and  former assistant dean, Doug Cutchins, “mentoring Posse students was a highlight of his 15 years at the College” (Boone).  Former sociology professor Chris Hunter said he was “convinced that Posse is one of the most important programs the College has initiated during my 38 years at Grinnell” (Boone).

Considering the high praise this program received from college professors and faculty in 2014, it is surprising, to say the least, that the college stopped admitting students from this program two years later; especially since dean and vice president for academic affairs Michael Lantham, said that “Saving money was not part of the motivation for the change,” but would actually cost “substantially more” (Logue). My goals are to further explore the impact of Posse for the short 14 years it has been a part of the campus, and seek to understand why it is no longer a part of Grinnell.

Nearly all of the Grinnell Posse members I interviewed had strong emotions for Posse, ranging from sadness to anger to appreciation. All of the Posse members held their Posse members in high regard, and repeatedly spoke of how much coming to Grinnell with a large support system waiting for them helped them adapt to Grinnell. Several students even went as far to say that they never would have felt like they belonged here if it weren’t for their Posse, and would have transferred colleges. Many teachers who were previous Posse mentors also helped the students, and served as a useful network for the students. Posse brought many people of color on campus, but they seeked out students with unique skills and leadership qualities. Many of the students said that Pousse gave them an advantage in providing pre-collegiate training (PCT) and for giving them a group of people to rely on. One student said that she wasn’t actively taught how to adequately defend against racism, sexism, or anything in terms of activism, which were all things she faced in her first semester.

Many of the students also expressed anger with the school for not being transparent with students as to why the program was cancelled. One of the students I interviewed actively tried to convince Grinnell to continue working with Posse students from New Orleans, but was told by a faculty member that the members of the only New Orleans posse on campus weren’t performing academically or showcasing the behavior expected from a Posse scholar. Another student heard that Grinnell was going to require Posse scholars to take two years of community college before attending the college to prepare students, but Posse refused.  Raynard Kingston was apparently considered ending the program for some time, but never gave a specific reason as to why. Many students guessed that is was because of cost, or because the school claimed to have better ways to bring diversity on campus.

After Posse was cut, many of the students felt like they weren’t wanted on campus. One of the Hispanic students compared it to the same feeling he got from Trump winning the election, and seeing how many people didn’t want people like him in the country. One of the other students said that she probably wouldn’t be as radical in her views toward race, class, and gender, and described it as one of the reasons she felt traumatized at Grinnell. This decision made it harder for some students to believe they did deserve to be on campus, and several students lost trust in the school for making a huge decision like this, without explaining to students and staff why. Only one student said that she felt they did this to actually increase diversity, due to seeing more students of color now than ever before.

Washington DC Posse 8

Los Angeles Posse 12

New Orleans Posse 1


To read some of the Posse Student Interviews, click  on one of the links below

Works Cited

Boone, Dana. “Posse Scholars Enhance Campus, Leave Legacy of Leadership and Service.” Grinnell College, 20 Sept. 2014,

Cripps, Karla, and CNN. “The Nomination Process.” The Posse Foundation,

Logue, Josh. “A College Rejects Posse.” Inside Higher Ed, Inside Higher Ed, 18 Apr. 2016,

Posse Photo Viewer.

Walsh, Tom. “Posse Helps Students Make It at Grinnell.” Grinnell College, 15 Dec. 2004,

The Farm Crisis and Minority Migration to Central Iowa

In the 1980s rural Iowan farmers experienced an unexpected economic disaster that led to the destruction of many of those whose lives depended on agricultural income and farm gains. The crisis affected many central Iowan families and left a long-lasting effect on the area and its makeup. Various policies introduced by the government during the 1970s and the increasing automation of agricultural work were the main factors that led to the farm crisis and its wreckage. Professor Jake Mitchell Geller of Iowa State University writes that “the combination of low farm prices, low farm income, and slumping land values has created a serious debt problem in agriculture” (1986).  


It was reported that “In 1983, seven insured commercial agricultural banks failed; in 1984 and 1985, the figure rose to thirty-two and sixty-eight, respectively” (Calomiris, 1986). This “debt problem” that Geller mentions influenced people to either sell small family farms and move away, or continue living in a state of poverty. Another trend that is noticed as a result of the farm crisis is what is called a brain drain. This is a phenomenon that occurs when younger and more educated people leave an area in search of better jobs and a better life. It can often be noticed in farm families, as the children go farther away to attend college, rarely to come back and live in the town in which they were born and raised. While this leads to the break-down of family farms, it also contributes to a significant decrease in population, specifically a younger, working population.


Cartoon take on “American Gothic” depicting the effects of the farm crisis


With a failing economy and no people to fill jobs, many would wonder how any rural Iowan town could survive. Some would be surprised to know that the main solution to the problem actually comes from minorities that migrate to the area, whether they be U.S citizens or not. It is seen time and time again that many central Iowan communities are held up by the work done by minorities in the area. Iowa is often seen as “whitest states in the nation,” but it is essential to understand how recent migration to the state by minorities has impacted the economies of many of Iowa’s farm towns that were destined for failure after the farm crisis (Des Moines Register 1999).

Minority population change in Iowa by county


Iowa Population by urban area in recent years

Although the farm crisis occurred in the mid-’80s, its effects are still seen to this day. This mass migration of minorities continued well into the ’90s, as a new report written in 1999 shows, “Iowa counties seeing the largest percentage growth in Hispanic populations during the 1990s are in central Iowa” (Des Moines Register 1999). This can easily be seen in places like Marshalltown, Iowa , where there is a rising Hispanic population upheld by a meat packing plant in the area. An article published by the Atlantic states, “[the] death of Small Town Iowa seemed imminent. That is until the Latino revolution hit the state” (2014).  This sentiment should not be ignored, as Iowa changes and adapts more in the future.





Meskwaki Nation History

Graphic of Bering Land Bridge including the Bering Sea, Alaska, and Siberia.

The Bering land bridge is rejected by most Natives as the path by which ancestors traveled to America, which is present in white-written accounts of Native history. Part of the Meskwaki origin story is the creation of ancestors directly on the North American continent.

According to Good, none of over 300 white-written history textbooks for K-12 analyzed for accuracy on Native American historical information were “acceptable as a ‘dependable source of knowledge’” (52). As illustrated, white-written accounts of Native American history contain issues. This is related to diversity in Iowa, as the Meskwaki Nation is affected by these problems. The Meskwaki are the only federally-recognized tribe in Iowa, thus holding an important position as a minority group in Iowa. It is vital to understand that the incorrect or prejudiced versions of Native history informing the majority of students in America are not sufficient and erase Native voice. Otherwise, the Native perspective may not be heard by non-Natives.

White-written history is problematic from multiple perspectives, as outlined by Good. For example, “in the supplementary history text History of US, the particular use of pronouns such as ‘we,’ ‘us,’ and ‘our’ implies a specific and dominant voice” (Good 55). Small choices, such as the mentioned pronouns, separate the author from Natives. This means that it can be construed that the white writer is speaking down upon Natives, as it is also assumed in the pronoun “we” that the reader is white or at least non-Native. Additionally, “there is a central message in the textbooks that indigenous-generated histories are exotic and mythical, while the versions forwarded by archaeologists and White historians represent the objective truth” (Good 56). Once again, white writers assume a righteous position by subtly claiming that Native history is a “story” or “legend” by calling it just that or assuming that white-written history is purely science-based and therefore correct. White-written historical accounts of Native history also portray a “normative story” in which it is assumed that “American culture began with British colonists” (58). Typically, white-written Native history starts at the time Europeans begin to arrive. Non-Natives think of America in general as the European-settled dominant culture instead of Native culture – which was obviously first, as it existed before the United States did. Thus, white-written accounts of Native history are usually problematic and omit a Native perspective or include it as a “story”.

Conversely, Native-written accounts of Native history attempt to describe the “othered” perspective. While voice is made known through acknowledgement of the Native heritage of the author – “the Menominee history guide makes the process of constructing a voice in texts more transparent” – the description of history is typically more inclusive (Good 58). For example, “there is an epistemological hybridity in the indigenous texts that intermingles traditional beliefs and archaeological theories about human origins in North America” (Good 59). In other words, Native-written accounts of Native history usually include the Native perspective along with European scientific explanations – instead of one side like the white-written histories. However, “the Bering Land Bridge theory does not appear in any of the indigenous texts” (Good 60). In place of this theory, most Natives speak of beginnings in North America instead of another continent. Nonetheless, evidence of condescending ideals and one-sidedness are not as prevalent in Native-written accounts of Native history compared to white-written accounts.

These issues of generally disregarding Native perspective on Native history are found outside of textbooks, however. For instance, Owen states in her book about Meskwaki folklore that “the Musquakies claim that they never had any other name” (18). Owen uses “they” to refer to the Meskwaki people, which provides the aforementioned separate and down-looking voice. Additionally, the Meskwaki Nation should have control over its own name – which would make it a fact that the only name to be used is Meskwaki, not a claim. Additionally, Owen later states that “it was too late for the white man to lift the burden of ownership” (23). This completely avoids responsibility for stealing Native land by claiming that the ownership is irreversible. Once again, Natives are treated as others that have less say in their own fate. Another troubling quote from Owen is her idea that “this assemblage looks very neat…without paint, or ornament if we except the ‘medicines’ of the scalp-lock” (27). By placing medicine in quotations, Owen dismisses the practices of Native people. This is similar to assuming that only European scientific theories are correct and that others are magical practices. Finally, Owen states that “it is impossible to christianize and civilize this people so long as these heathen practices are permitted” (41). Natives are again “othered” and seen as uncivilized in comparison to Europeans – despite building civilization on the continent in question much earlier than the Europeans. Thus, white-written texts other than history textbooks skip the Native perspective and promote the European as correct.

On the other hand, Meskwaki-written accounts of Meskwaki history tend to acknowledge white-written history while giving the mostly unheard Native perspective as well. In discussion with Johnathan Buffalo of the Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum, Buffalo referenced white people passing diseases to the Natives and his perspective on the reason for white contempt toward Natives – not being able to find them in “their Bibles”. While separating himself from white people, Buffalo acknowledges interactions with whites and details the too-often ignored suffering of Natives at the hands of Europeans. Additionally, Buffalo made it clear that the Meskwaki tribe was created on the North American continent. This coincides with the typical omission of the Bering Land Bridge theory in Native-written histories. However, the Meskwaki website lists quotes from whites and references white-written accounts in stating that “though the Meskwaki and Sauk are two distinct tribal groups, with linguistic and cultural similarities, the two tribes have often been associated throughout history” (Meskwaki Nation). In terms of interactions with white people, the Meskwaki and Sauk are grouped together. In addition to this fact, the Native perspective is given in ensuring that non-Natives know that the two tribes are indeed different. In addition, readers may sense pride of history in Native-written accounts. For instance, the Meskwaki Nation website states that “always persevering, this gave them time to return, thrive and grow” in reference to the Meskwaki returning to land stolen by Europeans. In white-written history, Natives are not typically given credit for triumphs and are not spoken of with a sense of pride.

Given these analyzations, the need for more Meskwaki-written and generally, more Native-written, historical accounts is made clear. This is necessary because the Native perspective is usually unheard, though it is always important in American history and before. Support of and platforms for Native perspectives, especially from white Americans, is imperative.

Graphic of traditional Meskwaki beadwork. Several colored design templates.

These beadwork templates, whose designs are traditional in the Meskwaki Nation, are found in a white-written book.

Beadwork design.

Actual beadwork done by a member of the Meskwaki tribe, found in the Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum.







“Beadwork.” Meskwaki Nation, Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum, May 2017,


Buffalo, Johnathan. 13 Nov. 2018, Tama, Meskwaki Settlement.

Good, Annalee. “Framing American Indians as the ‘First Americans’: Using Critical

     Multiculturalism to Trouble the Normative American Story.” Social Studies Research and

     Practice Journal, vol. 4, no. 2, July 2009.

“History.” Meskwaki Nation, Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, 2017,

“Map of the Bering Strait and Seward Peninsula Where a Land Bridge Connected Asia with

     North America.” Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, National Park Service,

Owen, Mary Alicia. Folk-Lore of the Musquakie Indians of North America and Catalogue of

     Musquakie Beadwork and Other Objects in the Collection of the Folk-Lore Society.

     Folk-Lore Society, 1904.

John Brown’s Stop in Grinnell

Portrait of John Brown, c. 1855-1859.

Portrait of Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, c. 1855-1865.


When people discuss the Civil War, they are usually able to recall a few battles from high school U.S. History, most taking place in the southern United States. The name John Brown may be familiar, but his relationship with Josiah Bushnell (J.B.) Grinnell, benefactor of Grinnell College, may be less well known. Brown was a radical abolitionist, often forced to engage in violence to work towards his goal of ending slavery. From Bloody Kansas to the raid on Harper’s Ferry that cost him his life, he walked the line between martyr and terrorist, the answer depending on which side of the war was asked. J.B. Grinnell, founder of the town and benefactor of the college, was very sympathetic to Brown’s cause as “the most important abolitionist in Iowa”, as well as a conductor on the Underground Railroad (Kerr 3). When Brown was passing through the town of Grinnell on his way to assist slaves on their journey to emancipation in Canada, Grinnell allowed him to hide his guns and followers in his home. It seems that Grinnell as a town has been fairly progressive since its founding, and that J.B. Grinnell’s ideas have shaped the mission of Grinnell College.


Brown and his party of newly emancipated slaves arrived in the newly-founded town of Grinnell on February 25th, 1859, just over nine months before his execution for crimes against the state of Virginia and murder. Brown scouted ahead and went to the home of J.B. Grinnell and discussed his mission with him.


A photo of J.B. Grinnell’s house at 814 Park Street from 1870, featuring an arrow pointing to the room in which John Brown stayed during his stop in Grinnell.

Grinnell was quick to offer his support and use of his parlor for storage of arms and Brown’s party. According to Florence Stewart Kerr, Grinnell College class of 1912, “his welcome in the town of Grinnell was warm and even enthusiastic,” unlike in several other Iowa towns (Kerr 3). The town itself was subjected to criticism and hideous remarks from major Iowa newspapers after word got out the residents had readily received Brown (Soike 151-152).

Brown addressed the town at a church, discussing the violence in Kansas and Missouri, and making clear his dedication to the goal of ending slavery. He declared there “we are far on our journey and ready to die in open field. We can shoot 60 times a minute and even the women are practiced dead shots” (Mills 101-102). Brown’s goal was to get his party of men, women, and children to freedom in Canada, and J.B. Grinnell used his influence to get them a train car to take them all the way to Detroit where they were able to safely cross into free territory. After this was accomplished, John Brown began his crusade to take the armory in Harper’s Ferry, which would ultimately lead to his capture, trial, and execution.

An excerpt from the Des Moines Register, showing the route John Brown took across Iowa and a short anecdote demonstrating Brown’s personality.

Two core beliefs of Grinnell College are social justice and self-governance, and it is probably assumed that these ideas were put into place fairly recently with the many progressive movements in the last 50 years. However, that is not the case. The town of Grinnell has been an epicenter for forward-thinking individuals since its establishment in 1854, and the college has adopted that idea since its own formation. While John Brown’s history was dark and violent, his goal was just, and J.B. Grinnell’s offer of assistance shows the long history of progressive thinking and social justice that is present on Grinnell College’s campus to this day.



Text Sources:

Kerr, Florence Stewart. “John Brown in Grinnell.” The Tanager, Feb. 1926.

Mills, George. “The Crusade of John Brown.” The Annals of Iowa 35 (1959), 101-112.

Soike, Lowell J. “Iowa and the Martyrdom of John Brown.” Necessary Courage: Iowa’s

Underground Railroad in the Struggle against Slavery, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2013, pp. 137–171.


Image Sources:

Des Moines Register. “John Brown’s route across Iowa.” Digital Grinnell. Grinnell College and

Des Moines Register, 1859,


Des Moines Register. “When Josiah Grinnell’s Home Concealed John Brown’s Guns.” Digital

Grinnell. Des Moines Register, 1859,


“Hon. Josiah Bushnell Grinnell of Iowa.” Library of Congress. Library of Congress, 1855-



“J.B. Grinnell House.” Digital Grinnell. Child Art Rooms, Poweshiek History Preservation

Project, 1870,


“John Brown Portrait.” Ohio History Connection. Ohio History Connection, 1855-1859,

Desegregation of Schools in Iowa

In the United States, segregation was not deemed illegal until 1954 with Brown vs. Board
of Education. This decision overturned the ruling of Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896) that said racially
segregated facilities were legal.Segregation of schools in Iowa was outlawed in 1868, 28 years
before Plessy vs. Ferguson and 86 years before Brown vs. Board of Education. The
desegregation of schools in Iowa, can be linked to other progressive movements at the time. In
1851, Iowa legalized interracial marriage and in 1867 African American men were given the
right to vote(LibGuides at Drake University Law Library). A link between these events can be
seen through Alexander Clark.

Muscatine County Iowa

Alexander Clark was the father of Susan Clark, an African American girl who was denied
entry into Muscatine’s Second Ward Common School Number 2 in 1867. Through the actions
of her father, Susan Clark’s case was brought to the Iowa Supreme Court. However, Mr. Clark
was not just any Iowan. By the time of his daughter’s denial of entry into the school, Mr. Clark
was an avid activist. He had attended the 1853 National Colored Convention, helped found
Muscatine’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, petitioned Iowa’s Black Laws, and had fought
for black suffrage (Frese 2006). All these events in Mr. Clark’s fight for equality led up to the
fight for desegregation in schools. This was a fight he won, a year after his daughter was denied
entry the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that school boards are not allowed to deny students
admission based on race, nationality, or religion. Benefiting from this decision, Mr, Clark went
on to earn his law degree in 1879 and was appointed as the U.S. consul general to Liberia in
1890 (Frese 2006).

Father of Susan Clark and civil rights activist

Though Iowa outlawed segregation in 1868, it was a slow process towards change. A
1977 staff report, 109 years after segregation in schools was outlawed in Iowa, showed that of 33
Waterloo schools only 11 schools had black students in attendance(United States Commission on
Civil Rights…1977). Protests against segregation in schools were still happening over a century
after it was deemed illegal. In 1875, the Iowa Supreme court reaffirmed its previous decision
after cases of segregation in Keokuk’s schools were brought to court (LibGuides at Drake
University Law Library). The decision of Plessy vs. Ferguson from the U.S Supreme Court
would not help Iowa’s path towards inclusiveness. It took until 1952 for Waterloo county to hire
it’s first African American teacher (United States Commission on Civil Rights…1977).

Justice Chester Cole, author of the Clark decision.

Despite setbacks, such as the 1896 Supreme Court decision Iowa’s courts upheld
equality. De jure standards were in line with progressive viewpoints though de facto did not
always follow. Sixty-six percent of the African American students in the eleven integrated
schools in Waterloo, Iowa were attending schools with black majorities (United States
Commission on Civil Rights…1977). In 1966, African American teachers made up only 0.8
percent of the faculty(United States Commission on Civil Rights…1977). Though Iowa appears
progressive due to the dates laws were passed, statistics reveal that it took just as long as the rest
of the United States to integrate.

Black voter turnout between 2012 & 2016

In 2012, Black’s in Iowa showed up to the polls to vote. Obama was running for reelection vs Mitt Romney. Obama was the first Black president, and for the first time in America showed Blacks the way to a better life did not have to be through sports or rap. Iowa is a generally forgotten state, and the people in it are a majority white. As a result those Blacks in Iowa tend to be underrepresented and overlooked in politics. By looking at voter turnout, we can see the groups under-representation in politics. This is important as Black people are treated poorly in America and states such as Iowa do not have large populations of Blacks. We shall take a look at many issues regarding Black voter suppression and trends of voting.


 Felony Disenfranchisement is an issue throughout America including Iowa. In Iowa, if you ever committed a felony you can’t vote unless you seek an individual petition. Blacks are disproportionately convicted of felonies, and as a result the number of Blacks in Iowa with voting rights is below the national average.


68% of Blacks voted in the 2012 election which was a record high in Iowa. Following the 2012 election high Black voter turnout was expected to be commonplace again in 2016. However this was not true as only 52.8% of eligible blacks in Iowa voted.


Iowa has passed legislation to limit the number of early polling places open on Sunday’s. This is a direct attack on the Black vote, as 34.9% of Black voters vote at there church on a Sunday prior to election day. On the other hand only 14.3% of Whites vote at early polling places on Sunday.

The 2016 election was projected to be decided by how Hillary would appeal to minorities. Ellison writes, that while people think Hillary needs to connect with minorities she instead should attempt to connect with Whites as they will be the game changer. The 2016 election results should not be blamed on Blacks as they were predicted to not vote in the election since they saw no similarities to either candidates.


After a decent amount of research I began to realize that while lots of legislation in Iowa was passed to limit Black voting it did not necessarily affect the 2016 election. By looking at data from states that had not introduced voter suppression legislation such as California, the same trend was seen. Blacks simply did not show up to the polls in the record numbers they did in the 2012 election. California had a Black voter turnout of 62% in 2012, but in 2016 only 49% voted in the presidential election. This trend was found to be commonplace across the United States. Obama offered Hope for Blacks in Iowa, and that was the driving force that group needed to get to the polls. Obama proved to America that no matter where you come from you can become successful. In 2016 Blacks saw Trump run on an anti Obama “wave” and Hillary simply was not seen as an extension of Obama’s hope. As a result the real difference maker between the 2012 and 2016 election for Black voters in Iowa was they simply had no connection to either politician.


 “News and Views: Felony Disenfranchisement Removes 1.4 Million Black Men From the Voting Polls.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 22, BruCon Publishing Company, p. 61,

Krogstad, Jens Manuel, and Mark Hugo Lopez. “Black Voter Turnout Fell in 2016 US Election.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 12 May 2017,

Curry, George. “The Plot to Dilute the Black Vote.” Washington Informer, vol. 47, no. 1, Washington Informer, p. 21,37,

 Chavis, Benjamin. “Stand Up for Voting Rights.” Washington Informer, vol. 47, no. 9, Washington Informer, p. 22,38,

 Ellison, Charles. “Black Voter Turnout Is Crucial and Not What It Seems.” Philadelphia Tribune, vol. 15, no. 52, Philadelphia Tribune, p. 4A,


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