# History



Where was Susie Clark's school?

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

August 24 was the first full day at SCJH—Susan Clark Junior High—and also the first day of the 2022-23 academic year at Muscatine High School, alma mater of Iowa’s first Black high school graduate.

Iowa’s 1857 constitution mandated public education for “all the youths of the State, without distinction of color,” but it took an Iowa Supreme Court ruling more than a decade later to end racial segregation. The 1868 case was named for that Muscatine student: Clark v. Board of School Directors.

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Serranus Hastings revisited

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

Drumming and singing and chanting are background sound for writing this column. Video streaming from the 106th annual Meskwaki Powwow shows colorfully attired modern Iowans stepping rhythmically together, everyone off the bleachers between solo dances of various styles and meanings.

Near Tama, just off the Lincoln Highway, the Meskwaki Nation settlement is distinct because their settlers weren’t immigrants from Europe or elsewhere across oceans. They came from natives who were here when the rest of us arrived.

Coinciding with our big state fair, the pleasant little festival reminds us our “beautiful land between the rivers” is a crazy quilt of distinct ethno-historical communities—however some pieces fade and however melting-potted our strip malls.

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Dueling editors

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

I may have misled regular readers to suppose Muscatine’s early editors and lawmakers were a pretty progressive bunch.

Those anti-slavery and equal-rights figures are indeed appealing historical characters, and I confess I tell less about their opponents, mainly because I’ve learned less.

Alexander Clark’s publicist—my description for editor John Mahin—allied this paper with the Republican party when it emerged in the 1850s. There was almost always a Democratic paper in town, so he faced a procession of partisan competitors over his half-century career.

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The political price of Parvin's petitions

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

Theodore “T.S.” Parvin came to Iowa in 1838 with Robert Lucas, the first territorial governor, and soon settled at Bloomington—future Muscatine—to serve as district prosecutor.

His uncle, John “J.A.” Parvin, arrived less than a year later. Together they started one of the first schools in the territory. Both would achieve life-long reputations as champions of education.

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Whites and Blacks together?

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

“We never had race trouble here.” I hear this often. I call it the Nice Iowans fairytale.

Take this comment posted on the Muscatine Journal’s website recently: “Throughout all of lowa, Black children regularly attended school with their White neighbors at this time, and at all times in history. lowa has never had any such thing as ‘segregated’ schools—ever.”

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No picture of Susan?

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

“Look! They included Susan, and with a photo we haven’t seen!” my wife exclaimed while perusing a Sunday newspaper article about “17 Iowa women who changed the world.”

“Starting with this school year, the combined middle schools of Muscatine have a new name marking an old decision that changed lives for many, including a 12-year-old girl who didn’t want to stop learning: Susan Clark Junior High School.” (Des Moines Register, March 29, 2020)

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