May 17, 2024 - News

Iowa desegregated school 86 years before Brown v. Board of Education decision

Alexander Clark

Alexander Clark in 1887 via William J. Simmons, courtesy of New York Public Library Digital Collections

Iowa schools desegregated 86 years prior to the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Driving the news: Susan Clark, a 12-year-old African American student, wasn't allowed to attend her neighborhood school in Muscatine because it was for "whites only."

  • In 1867, her father, civil rights activist Alexander Clark, filed a lawsuit against the school on behalf of his daughter.
  • He argued the all-white school was next to their home, while his children had to walk over a mile to attend the Black school, PBS reports.

The bottom line: Clark won the case, but it was appealed by the Muscatine school board. It rose to the Iowa Supreme Court who ruled in 1868 that racial segregation was unconstitutional.

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