African American Museum of Iowa presents on civil rights

A+young+boy+listens+to+a+speaker+at+a+presentation+on+the+history+of+civil+rights+in+Iowa+on+Thursday%2C+Jan.+25%2C+2018.+This+event+was+put+on+by+the+African+American+Museum+of+Iowa.+%28Matthew+Finley%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
Back to Article
Back to Article

African American Museum of Iowa presents on civil rights

A young boy listens to a speaker at a presentation on the history of civil rights in Iowa on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. This event was put on by the African American Museum of Iowa. (Matthew Finley/The Daily Iowan)

A young boy listens to a speaker at a presentation on the history of civil rights in Iowa on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. This event was put on by the African American Museum of Iowa. (Matthew Finley/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Matth

A young boy listens to a speaker at a presentation on the history of civil rights in Iowa on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. This event was put on by the African American Museum of Iowa. (Matthew Finley/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Matth

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Matth

A young boy listens to a speaker at a presentation on the history of civil rights in Iowa on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. This event was put on by the African American Museum of Iowa. (Matthew Finley/The Daily Iowan)

Brooklyn Draisey, [email protected]

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Iowa’s civil-rights history stretches further back than the 1950s, and efforts to improve the lives of African Americans continue today.

The African American Museum of Iowa discussed civil rights in Iowa on Jan. 25 at the North Liberty Community Library. Because Martin Luther King Jr. Day was earlier in the month and February is Black History Month, adult services librarian Elaine Hayes said she thought it would be the best way to educate people on the state’s history.

“Especially with the nature of things politically these days, I think it’s a good idea to remind people where we come from,” she said.

RELATED: UI College of Public Health hosts privilege walk for civil rights week

Krystal Gladden, the educator for the museum, started her presentation on civil rights in Iowa where one wouldn’t expect: the 1600s.

“You can’t really talk about the Civil Rights Movement without backing that up to before and during the slave trade,” she said.

Before Iowa became a state, its civil-rights movement seemed to be a step ahead of everyone else. The courts set precedents by claiming a slave, Ralph, free after he worked on Iowa soil. The territory passed vital laws before most of the nation, such as the right to vote and integrating schools.

Life was still far from perfect for African Americans in Iowa, and over the years, they fought for their freedom and equality, making history in the process.

“In looking at some of the activities that were happening in the state of Iowa, you see these small individuals, small organizations, and grass-roots movements of people doing things and connecting their communities in ways that you don’t hear about as often when people talk about the Civil Rights Movement,” Gladden said.

RELATED: UI to hire firm to review employee practices, vis-à-vis civil rights

The University of Iowa, while only one institution, has done its part to help push forward the Civil Rights Movement. Students such as Jewel Limar Prestage, the first black woman to receive a doctorate in political science, and Philip Hubbard, the first African American vice president of a Big Ten university, made history at the UI for their achievements.

UI graduate student Walter Carter, also the vice president of the newly reinstated Iowa City NAACP chapter, emphasized school, elementary through high school, as a way to continue Iowa City’s progressive movement.

RELATED: The future of labor and civil rights in Iowa

“A lot of the time people look at television or read the paper and only see the bad things that happen … there’s a continuing negative portrayal that’s being perpetuated, so we also want to highlight positive and higher achievement in blacks in the community,” he said.

Gladden said school can be a great resource for students to discuss civil-rights issues, but she pointed out that an institution such as a university can also divide parts of the community.

“You guys have the resources to be able to engage in those conversations more and have people who are able to speak about it more because of the university, which is sort of a central hub in Iowa City,” she said. “But then you still have those who aren’t connected directly to the university who are community members of Iowa City whose voices don’t get heard as much.”

The most important thing people need to realize is that everyone has shared experiences without history, Gladden said, and no one should be excluded from them.