# Muscatine



Clark farm on Muscatine Island

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

Alexander Clark became extraordinarily wealthy for a Black man in 19th-century America, but nobody yet has assembled all the details we could learn. 

Muscatine’s entrepreneurial barber is remembered for achievements as churchman, lawyer, masonic grand master, publisher, and statesman.

I hadn’t thought of Clark being involved in farming until I received this question from Louisa County historian Frank Best: “Did Alexander Clark own a farm out on the Island?”

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She presented herself as a scholar

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

September 10, 1867: the beginning of the end of segregated schools in Iowa; the day 12-year-old Susie Clark tried to enroll at Muscatine’s Grammar School No. 2.

One hundred and fifty-five years ago “on the 10th day of September, 1867, said school being in session, she presented herself, and demanded to be received therein as a scholar under the common school law.” (Iowa Supreme Court, ruling in Clark v. Board of Directors, April 14, 1868.)

Instead of a welcome at her neighborhood school three blocks up West Hill from her home at W. 3rd and Chestnut, someone in charge turned Susie away on orders of the school board.

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One of her favorite places

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

Across a crowded lobby, I recognize Iowa’s one-time state architectural historian who married a candidate for Congress. It’s one of the opening events at the spectacular new Stanley Museum of Art. She is serving as a greeter.

Calling card in hand, I make my way to her side. Scribbled on the back: “Alexander Clark House.”

She glances at the words. “That is one of my favorite places,” she says.

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Through story and song

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

I was excited when I learned Simon Estes would narrate the Iowa public television documentary “Lost in History: Alexander Clark.”

Ahead of the premiere showing at Muscatine Community College in March 2012, the Muscatine Journal highlighted the bass-baritone’s role in “the 27-minute film by award-winning New York producer Marc Rosenwasser that chronicles Clark’s life from his birth in western Pennsylvania in 1826 to his death in 1891.”

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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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