Black history, Iowa treasure

Tuesday, March 5, 2002

A new book published by the State Historical Society of Iowa, Outside In: African-American History in Iowa helps celebrate Black History Month in Iowa. It tells the stories of countless African Americans who helped shape Iowa.

It's a beautiful book, created by scholars, historians, business people, doctors, lawyers and students from across the state. It tells hundreds of beautiful, previously untold stories.

The title, Outside In, comes from the poem of turn-of-the-century African American poet, Georgia Douglas Johnson: "Unriddle this riddle of

outside in of white men's children in black men's skins."

Outside In tells of African American Iowans who fought for our country, fought for their civil rights, and served the state in countless ways.

In 1863, for example, there were only 1,500 African Americans living in Iowa; a full 700 of them volunteered for service to fight for the union in the Civil War. Later, the Fort Des Moines was the first U.S. army base dedicated to training African-American soldiers during World War I. During

World War II, 39 black women from the U.S. Women's Auxiliary Army Corps

(WAACs) were trained at Fort Des Moines.

It was after World War II that struggles toward integration began in earnest in this state. In the summer of 1948, three African Americans, John Bibbs, Edna Griffin, and Leonard Hudson, went to the soda fountain at the Katz drug store in Des Moines. The general manager, Maurice Katz, refused to serve them. Griffin, often referred to as Iowa's Rosa Parks, organized a protest that led to criminal charges against Katz. When the Iowa Supreme Court handed down its decision, against Katz, it was the first that the Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1884 was successfully enforced.

The book also tells the story of Iowa's first African American registered nurse, Dollie Wilder Haughton, in 1947; the first black woman to

join the Iowa Press Women, Marie Ross, in 1948; and the first African American fire-fighters in Iowa in the 1960s.

As Tom Morain writes in the introduction, "...Outside In is a book for all Iowans, not just African-Americans... For other Iowans raised in such innocence, Outside In will be startling and disturbing....The State Historical Society of Iowa

is proud to publish Outside In... It is our hope that with the publication of Outside In we will move together, as one people indivisible by race or skin color, a little closer to the promised land [of] Iowa."

Lt. Governor Sally Pederson contributes regularly for Pilot-Tribune readers.