Alexander Clark and an African-American’s Fight for Civil Rights

Expand/Collapse Alexander Clark and an African-American’s Fight for Civil Rights


In the 1860s, shortly after the Civil War, a teenager from Muscatine, Iowa, tried to enroll in the local high school. She was denied admission because she was black. Her father sued and won. And when the school board challenged the decision in the Iowa Supreme Court, he won again. Because of the actions of Alexander Clark, Iowa's schools were desegregated more than 85 years before the rest of the nation officially outlawed school segregation. This collection of video segments from the Lost in History: Alexander Clark documentary explores Clark's historic court victory, his prominent anti-slavery role, his recruitment of black soldiers for the Union side in the Civil War and his appointment as a U.S. ambassador to Liberia.

  • Alexander Clark and an African-American’s Fight for Civil Rights | Video Gallery

    After winning the first successful school desegregation case in the history of the United States in 1867, Iowa businessman Alexander Clark received his law degree, ran a newspaper in Chicago, and became the United States Ambassador to Liberia.

    Grades: 5-13+
  • The Early Life of Alexander Clark

    In 1842, at the age of 16, Alexander Clark moved to what is now Muscatine, Iowa. His skill set, including being a barber, put him in a position to be in daily contact with the most powerful men in the community. Clark was born a free man and therefore was able to own property. He was able to purchase his first home at the age of 22. In this clip from the Lost in History: Alexander Clark documentary, historian Dr. Paul Finkelman describes Alexander Clark’s beginnings as a barber and businessman.

    Grades: 5-13+
  • Alexander Clark and Early Abolitionists in Iowa

    Before the Civil War, there were many abolitionists living in Eastern Iowa where Alexander Clark lived. Within a short time, Clark became an activist fighting for the rights of blacks. In this clip from the Lost in History: Alexander Clark documentary, historian Dr. David Broadnax discusses the demographic makeup of Iowa and how some Iowans played a critical role in the abolitionist movement.

    Grades: 5-13+
  • Alexander Clark Helps a Fugitive Slave

    Before the Civil War, some slaves escaped their slave owners and went to free states like Iowa. In this clip from the Lost in History: Alexander Clark documentary, historian David Broadnax tells the story of Jim White, a former slave who was working in Iowa and was helped by Alexander Clark in 1848.

    Grades: 5-13+
  • Alexander Clark Organizes African-Americans in Iowa to Fight in the Civil War

    Iowan Alexander Clark mobilized African-Americans in Midwest states to fight for the North in the Civil War. In this clip from the Lost in History: Alexander Clark documentary, historian Kent Sissel explains how Clark was instrumental in organizing Iowa’s first all-black unit.

    Grades: 5-13+
  • Alexander Clark Fights for Voting Rights in Iowa

    Iowa’s first constitution of 1846 required blacks to pay a $500 bond to enter the state and barred them from voting, holding office, serving in the state militia, attending public schools and marrying whites. In this clip from the Lost in History: Alexander Clark documentary, historian David Broadnax explains how Alexander Clark participated in a campaign for voting rights in Iowa after the end of the Civil War. The campaign was successful and in 1868, Iowa became the first state outside of New England to grant African-American men the right to vote.

    Grades: 4-13+
  • Alexander Clark and the First Successful Desegregation Case in the United States

    In 1867, an African-American businessman named Alexander Clark filed a lawsuit against the Muscatine, Iowa, school district for denying his daughter admission to a public school because she was black. Clark won his lawsuit but it was appealed by the school board and went to the Iowa Supreme Court. Again he prevailed and in the fall of 1868 his daughter attended the local school. In this clip from the Lost in History: Alexander Clark documentary, historians explain the importance of this first successful school desegregation case in the history of the United States.

    Grades: 5-13+
  • Alexander Clark Becomes an Attorney, Newspaper Publisher and Ambassador

    After winning the first successful school desegregation case in the history of the United States in 1867, African-American businessman Alexander Clark continued to accomplish great things including getting his law degree from the University of Iowa, running a newspaper in Chicago, and becoming the United States Ambassador to Liberia. This clip from the Lost in History: Alexander Clark documentary provides an overview of Clark’s contributions and his relationship with Frederick Douglass.

    Grades: 5-13+

Brand: Iowa Public Television
Contributor: Iowa Public Television