# Alexander Clark



More about Jim White’s judges

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

We Alexander Clark storytellers work hard at learning our facts and keeping them straight.

We can’t tell Muscatine’s best Underground Railroad story without Judge Hastings, but I’m afraid I got a fact or two wrong in the last column. And I ran into a shocker.

This much is true: “A writ of habeas corpus was obtained from Hon. S.C. Hastings, then acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of this state, who released him.”

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A momentous year for Alexander Clark

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

The year 1848 was momentous in the life of young Iowa pioneer Alexander Clark.

On June 21, he and Benjamin Mathews purchased property on East 7th Street where their church would be built the following year. The Muscatine congregation became known as “the oldest colored church in Iowa.” (I’ll say more about the church in future columns.)

History reveals two other events of 1848: Alexander’s marriage to Catherine Griffin, and around the same time, his role—or maybe theirs—in a drama his eulogist will extoll in 1892, calling him “one of the Underground Railroad engineers and conductors, whose field was the South, whose depot was the North, and whose freight was human souls.”

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Of narratives learned in Iowa

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

When the nation celebrates our 250th anniversary in 2026, let us observe Alexander Clark’s 200th birthday, too.

By 1890, when President Benjamin Harrison appointed him minister to Liberia, the Muscatine man was known throughout the U.S. as “the colored orator of the West.” His speeches and writings exhorted Americans to live up to the all-are-created-equal demands of the Declaration of Independence. It was one of his favorite themes.

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What about the women in the Alexander Clark tale?

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

“Frontier Iowa’s most prominent black citizen.” That’s the first mention of Alexander Clark in the book I recommend to any adult serious about studying his life and times. Bright Radical Star: Black Freedom and White Supremacy on the Hawkeye Frontier, by Robert Dykstra (Harvard University Press 1993).

Iowa a “bright radical star”? Wow. Who said that?

General Ulysses Grant, presidential candidate, November 1868. If you don’t know the reference, I invite you to learn. I will look closer at the Iowa of 1868 in a future column. 

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