African American Resources for Iowa

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African American Women in Iowa Digital Collection - a digital archive of materials related to African American women in the state. The site includes photographs, scrapbooks, pamphlets, oral histories, newsletters and more. Developed by the University of Iowa Libraries.

The Negro in Iowa. By Leola Marjarie Nelson Bergmann. with in an editorial addendum Twenty years after by William J. Petersen. Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1969. - 96p. - (Studies in Iowa History, Vol 1, no. 1) F621. S87 Vol. 1 no. 1

The Negro in Iowa was reprinted from the Iowa Journal History and Politics, Vol. 46. no. 1, 1948. Includes Bibliographical references

Exploring Buried Buxton: By David M. Gradwohl and Nancy M. Osborn.. archaeology of an abandoned Iowa coal mining town with a large black population /1st ed. - Ames: Iowas State University Press, 1984. - xvi, 207 p. : ill., maps F629.B98 G73 1984

There were relatively few African Americans in Iowa before the Civil War. For a list of books and articles about slavery in early Iowa, see pages 5–6 of:

  • Iowa in the Civil War: A Reference Guide. [1]

The African American Museum of Iowa

55 12ths Avenue SE

Cedar Rapids 52401

Phone: 1-319-862-2101

The State Historical Society of Iowa at Iowa City has:  records of the Iowa Assocation of Colored Women's Clubs 1903-72. Also known as the Iowa Federation of Colord Women's Clubs.  


African American

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.[2] After 1865 that the African American population tripled mainly emigrating from neighboring states. [3] [4]

Different occupations brought the African American population to Iowa. Lead mining, laying tracks for the railroad, and in the river towns of Burlington, Davenport, Keokuk and Sioux City, they worked as deckhands on ships that traveled up and down the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

Buxton was a coal mining town that was racially harmonious. In 1905, more than one half of the 5,000 inhabitants of this community were African-American. The others were comprised of immigrants from Russia, Belgium, Bohemia, France, Germany, and Norway. [5]

When Fort Des Moines became the site of the Colored Officers Training Camp in 1917 the African American population greatly increased. Many of these families chose to stay in Des Moines after World War I ended in 1918. Many African-American leaders came from this area.

  1. Iowa City, Iowa: The State Historical Society of Iowa, 197- Robertson , James J. Jr. Iowa in the Civil War: A Reference Guide. Iowa City, Iowa: The State Historical Society of Iowa, 197- (Family History Library book 977.7 A1 no. 40; fiche 6049713)
  2. Outside In: African-American History in Iowa, 1838-2000. Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa, 2001.
  3. Google Books
  4. Alice Eichholz, ed., Redbook: American State, County, and Town Sources, 3rd ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004), 291. (FHL Book 973 D27rb). [WorldCat entry].
  5. Iowa's African Americans