# Race

GOP lawmakers abandon Iowa's civil rights legacy

Ralph Rosenberg served in the Iowa legislature from 1981 through 1994 and was director of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission from 2003 through 2010.

The Iowa legislature turned its back on our state’s proud civil rights legacy with last week’s passage of Senate File 2385, which neuters the effectiveness of the civil and human rights agencies and eliminates specific commissions dedicated to marginalized populations.

This combination undercuts Iowa values of respect and protecting the dignity of all Iowans. The bill compounds the removal of legal authority to proactively act on civil and human rights violations, by broadcasting a national message about how the Iowa government devalues diversity in religion, race, ethnic background, gender, or national identity. (Other pending Republican legislation reinforces this message, by calling for K-12 schools to teach history from a Western Civilization perspective, or limiting diversity, equity, and inclusion programming on college campuses.)

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Race on a riverfront

Statue on Muscatine’s Mississippi riverfront erected in 1926 by the all-white Improved Order of Red Men.

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal on June 7, 2023, under the headline “Alexander Clark does RAGBRAI?”

What would Alexander Clark say about Muscatine gearing up for another horde of RAGBRAI visitors in their sweat-drenched thousands?

A stretch of the imagination to wonder such a thing? It’s what I do while researching 19th century newspapers for dots connecting local Black history to—everything.

Clark was more than Equal Rights Champion. He did much to make his hometown better. Movers and shakers patronized his Hair Dressing Saloon, so he knew what was happening. He enjoyed travel, and his marketing sense and public demeanor took him places, especially in later years.

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How Iowa is addressing racial disparities in juvenile justice

Black youth in Iowa continue to be punished more severely than white peers for criminal offenses. According to The Sentencing Project’s latest analysis of disparities in youth incarceration (a category covering detention centers, residential treatment centers, group homes, and youth prisons), Iowa remains among the ten states with the highest overall Black youth incarceration rate, as well as one of the ten states with the greatest Black/white disparity in youth incarceration.

Those statistics reflect only one aspect of a larger problem. Early this year, the final report from a Juvenile Justice Task Force established by the Iowa Supreme Court acknowledged that “Gender and racial disparities are present throughout the system.”

Iowa is in the early stages of implementing the task force’s 55 recommendations, at least seven of which relate to racial disparities. (Many more address out-of-home placements for youth.)

However, advocates say Iowa must do more to address the ongoing disparities. And while an expanded diversion program is keeping many young people out of the juvenile justice system, one Iowa county with a particularly troubled history on youth incarceration is in the process of building a much bigger detention center.

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Are Republicans really gaining among Black voters?

Dan Guild is a lawyer and project manager who lives in New Hampshire. In addition to writing for Bleeding Heartland, he has written for CNN and Sabato’s Crystal Ball, most recently here. He also contributed to the Washington Post’s 2020 primary simulations. Follow him on Twitter @dcg1114.

Those who follow polling closely have noticed a surprising shift in recent findings. Curtis Dunn of NBC News recently wrote, “Waning enthusiasm from Black voters presents an inflection point for Biden’s campaign.” Politico’s Steven Shepard also covered “warning signs” for Democrats about Black voters. The political consulting firm Catalyst, which I respect, suggested that Democratic support among African Americans fell in the 2022 midterms.

This table compares exit poll data (I used the Pew validated voter exit poll for 2016 to 2022) with an average of high-quality polling in the last 45 days of the campaign. The results are shocking. Recent polling averages indicate a 35-point shift in margin among African Americans. If that is happening, it is an enormous development in American politics. The African-American vote is vital to Democratic success in key battleground states such as Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

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Data show which Iowa counties have (or don't have) representative juries

Five of the eight Iowa counties with the largest Black populations “had trial juries that were fully representative of their jury-eligible Black population” during 2022 and the first half of 2023, according to data analyzed by the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP. However, trial juries in Polk County and Scott County failed to hit that benchmark, and Dubuque County was “particularly problematic,” with zero Black members of any trial jury during the eighteen-month period reviewed.

The same review indicated that trial juries in Linn and Woodbury counties were close to being representative of the area’s jury-eligible Latino population, while Latinos were underrepresented on juries in Johnson, Marshall, Scott, and Polk counties, and particularly in Muscatine County.

Russell Lovell and David Walker, retired Drake Law School professors who co-chair the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP Legal Redress Committee, examined juror data provided by the Iowa Judicial Branch and presented their findings at the 11th Annual Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities in Ankeny on November 3.

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Iowa attorney honored for half-century of civil rights advocacy

Russell Lovell was troubled by the segregation and discrimination he witnessed growing up in a small Nebraska town and resolved to work on civil rights while attending law school in his home state during the late 1960s. His passion for justice extended beyond his nearly 40-year career as a Drake Law School professor and recently earned Lovell an award from the Notre Dame Alumni Association “for his outstanding dedication to advancing civil rights and his commitment to providing experiential learning to the next generation of lawyers.”

Iowa-Nebraska NAACP President Betty Andrews nominated Lovell for the Rev. Louis J. Putz, C.S.C., Award, citing his “fifty years of exceptional NAACP pro bono civil rights advocacy.” As co-chairs of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP and Des Moines Branch NAACP Legal Redress Committees, Lovell and fellow Drake Law Professor Emeritus David Walker have collaborated on eight amicus briefs submitted to the Iowa Supreme Court. They have also successfully pushed for systemic reforms to make Iowa juries more diverse.

The Iowa Chapter of the National Bar Association recognized Lovell’s civil rights work and advocacy for representative juries in 2020.

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Iowa still among worst states for racial disparities in incarceration

Iowa is tied for seventh among states with the highest disparities in Black incarceration rates, according to new analysis from the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative. Data released on September 27 show Black Iowans are about nine times more likely than whites to be in prison or jail, and Native Americans are about thirteen times more likely than whites to be incarcerated in Iowa.

Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP, said in a statement that the findings “underscore the need for systemic reform.” She called on Iowa to “take action in every facet of the justice process.”

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When are Iowa students old enough to read books?

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association. Top photo of Ta-Nehisi Coates speaking at Oregon State University on February 2, 2017 is by Theresa Hogue, available via Wikimedia Commons.

Steve Corbin made a solid point his latest column (published in Bleeding Heartland and later in the Cedar Rapids Gazette): “Many of today’s GOP-oriented governors and legislators, far rightwing groups, conservative media and Republican presidential candidates have either passed or supported book banning, anti-LGBTQIA and laws prohibiting teaching about racism.” 

“It’s a blatant attack on … the rights of students, parents, teachers, general public and book authors,” wrote Corbin. 

Corbin’s point is well-taken, and others have said the same, but action or litigation to blunt the attack is nonexistent. Where are the fair-minded parents, politicians, students, teachers, et al whose outrage could demand instructional integrity and curtail naive book bans? 

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Debunking the talking points for Iowa's "school choice" program

Pat O’Donnell is a resident of Sioux Center and spent 37 years serving in Iowa public schools as a teacher, principal and superintendent. He may be reached at patnancy@zoho.com.

On August 18, the Iowa PBS program “Iowa Press” hosted Josh Bowar, Sioux Center Christian School Head of School, and Jennifer Raes, principal of St. Anthony School, a Catholic institution in Des Moines. The topic for discussion: Iowa’s Students First Act, the new program directing state tax dollars to support private school tuition for every kindergarten through 12th-grade student in the state.

The bill establishes a framework and financing for education savings accounts (ESAs), also known as vouchers, which eligible families may use to cover tuition, fees, and other qualified education expenses at Iowa’s accredited private schools.

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History should be about learning—not comfort

Jim Chrisinger is a retired public servant living in Ankeny. He served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, in Iowa and elsewhere. 

Florida Republicans just whitewashed their history curriculum. Slavery wasn’t so bad. Look away from the rape, torture, and selling children like livestock. Did you know that enslaved people learned skills from which they benefited (slavery was a jobs training program)? Create a false equivalence by saying that both sides committed violence during the civil rights era (spoiler: sometimes Blacks shot back).  

Florida Republicans aren’t acting alone. Republicans across the country have been and continue to march history back to the time when white, male, Christian, straight, native-born men wrote the textbooks, centering themselves. That’s the history I learned in school. 

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When you love America like you love your child

Al Womble is chair of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Black Caucus.

I was a student at Drake University in the early 1990s. What I enjoyed most about Drake was having classes that allowed me to truly get to know my fellow students, and to have discussions with them both in and outside of class. Our classes and our homework often brought up certain topics and ideas that would then extend beyond the classroom itself. We often stayed up until one or two AM talking and debating.

We had a history professor who wasn’t at Drake very long, because she moved on to a bigger east coast school. But she was a Black female history professor, and I remember her willingness to challenge students’ perceptions. That was a feature of the the Drake University environment, and I guess it still is true.

Someone once asked that professor why she hated this country. She said, “I don’t hate this country. I love this country. But I look at this country like my child. When my child has a sickness, I realize there’s something wrong and I have to do something about that sickness.”

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Surprise Iowa DOT office move is voter suppression

Iowa City Council Member Shawn Harmsen represents Iowa City District B, which includes the east side of Iowa City and the recently closed DOT office.

In a move that will unevenly harm Black and other communities in the Iowa City area through lack of service and voting disenfranchisement, a major department of Governor Kim Reynolds’ administration executed a surprise move from an easily accessible location near several neighborhoods to a remote edge of another city.

The Iowa Department of Transportation sent out a press release on July 21 telling the public that after three more days in the Iowa City location it has inhabited for decades, that office would no longer be there. It was a classic Friday afternoon news dump before the start of RAGBRAI.

The press release claims the new location, out by Theisen’s and Costco on the very edge of Coralville, “was chosen after an extensive search for a space that could better accommodate the volume of customers in the area.”  Unsurprisingly, these claims of “needing more space” and providing better customer service don’t stand up under any kind of scrutiny. In fact, as I will explain, the relocation looks less like an inept move than attempt to conduct racial and partisan voter suppression.

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Stay WOKE to America

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

Before critical race theory (CRT) was named and studied in universities and used to frame legal arguments (and fell into disrepute among Republicans), I learned enough to qualify me as WOKE, at least on a scale with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds—a low bar, I admit. 

It’s a bold claim, one based mainly on the fortuitous experiences of my youth, all before Iowa’s governor was born. 

As we know, Reynolds was born and reared in Iowa. She graduated from I-35 High School in 1977, and entered a typical middle-class life of occasional college classes, marriage, children, parenthood, jobs, and local politics beginning in the Clarke County treasurer’s office during the 1990s. She was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008.

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How Democrats can use Bidenomics to win in rural America again

Scott Syroka is a former Johnston city council member.

Democrats have a major opportunity to increase their appeal in rural America, thanks to the policy framework crafted by President Biden, which he laid out in his June 28 address on Bidenomics in Chicago, Illinois.

While Democrats have successfully embraced Bidenomics to pass legislation like the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS Act, Inflation Reduction Act, and beyond, they haven’t done enough to champion Bidenomics through a rural-specific lens.

By using this framework to present a vision for an inclusive rural economy, rather than the trickle-down status quo of exploitation, Democrats can draw a clear contrast with their Republican opponents.

If they choose to seize this opportunity, Democrats can begin to stop the electoral bloodbath in rural areas, shrink the margins, and maybe even start to win again.

The forgotten history of America’s family farm movement and its fight for parity shows us how.

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Iowa AG warns Fortune 100 companies over race-based policies

Sam Stockard and Anita Wadhwani report for the Tennessee Lookout, which is is part of the States Newsroom network. This article first appeared at Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird is among a coalition warning the nation’s largest companies—many of which have diversity and equity programs—they could face legal action for using race-based policies.

A July 13 letter from Bird and twelve other attorneys general put Fortune 100 companies on notice they could be hit with legal action for violating the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, which put an end to using race as a basis for admitting students to college. The attorneys general are targeting hiring and contracting too.

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Consequences of the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision

Steve Corbin is emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa and a freelance writer who receives no remuneration, funding, or endorsement from any for-profit business, nonprofit organization, political action committee, or political party.    

More than a year has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v Wade and Casey precedents, stripping women of a right they’d had for nearly 50 years to make their own reproductive health-care decisions. The Dobbs v. Jackson decision has affected American lives in many ways, and had some surprising consequences.

For the first time ever, a majority of Americans say abortion is morally acceptable and recent abortion laws are too strict.

For the first time in two decades, more people identify as “pro-choice” versus pro-life.”

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Black Iowa Newspaper publishes first edition

Dana James, the founder of the Black Iowa News website and email newsletter, has launched a print version of the publication in time for Juneteenth celebrations around the state. James told Bleeding Heartland she plans to publish the Black Iowa Newspaper quarterly this year, with the goal of monthly printing during 2024.

Although Iowa has a long tradition of Black journalism—the Iowa Bystander newspaper was founded in Des Moines in 1894—the state has been without a print newspaper produced by and for Black Iowans for some time. Jonathan Narcisse, the last publisher of the Bystander, moved the paper to a digital-only format several years before his death in 2018.

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The way forward for Iowa Democrats

Alexandra Dermody is a Davenport based Gen Z activist, nonprofit director, and small business owner.

In the aftermath of the 2022 midterms, and with the 2024 elections fast approaching, the Iowa Democratic Party finds itself at a crucial juncture. With a series of losses in the state legislature and down-ballot offices, and a lack of diverse candidates, the party must address its shortcomings to regain momentum and build a more inclusive and modern base.

I’ll delve into the current and future prospects of the Iowa Democratic Party from my own perspective as a community organizer and activist, emphasizing the need for diversity, youth engagement, and policy alignment to revitalize its influence and win key seats.

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What became of Susie Clark?

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

International Women’s Day—a day for celebrating women’s achievements.

Two months before the unanimous vote naming Susan Clark Junior High, a school board member wrote to me: “You might want to create a Wikipedia page for Susan Clark. It’s quite difficult to find information on her online.”

I tried and failed. Several tries have produced the same verdict: there’s already a page for the 1868 Iowa Supreme Court ruling in her name, and that’s enough.

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Iowa should reduce C-section rates to improve maternal health

Rachel Bruns is a volunteer advocate for quality maternal health care in Iowa. This essay was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record’s Fearless publication.

While we see regular news coverage about challenges accessing maternal health care in Iowa and the related racial disparities, I rarely see the mention of higher cesarean rates as a relevant factor in those disparities.

April is Cesarean Awareness Month, and April 11-17 is Black Maternal Health Week. The overlap of these initiatives is relevant given the higher cesarean rate for Black people across the country and Iowa. 

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Caitlin and Angel: Battle of the brands

Dan Piller was a business reporter for more than four decades, working for the Des Moines Register and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He covered the oil and gas industry while in Texas and was the Register’s agriculture reporter before his retirement in 2013. He lives in Ankeny.

The overheated commentary in the aftermath of the NCAA women’s basketball Final Four has focused on race: the mostly-white Iowa women led by Caitlin Clark against the Black women from South Carolina and Louisiana State University.

Many saw racial overtones in the critiques of LSU player Angel Reese’s gestures toward Clark near the end of the championship game. Reese noted at the post-game press conference that all season, people have tried to “put her in a box” and said she’s “too hood” and “ghetto.” (Clark said in a later interview she didn’t “think Angel should be criticized at all,” adding that trash talk is part of the game.)

Race is always present in sports culture. But with today’s college athletes, a new factor has arisen that may be even bigger.

It’s money. The Iowa-LSU game coincided with a new era, where college athletes at long last are getting a share of what has been a rich marketing pie. Clark and Reese competed for their schools and states, to be sure, but it was also a battle of brands.

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Read the messages Ron DeSantis is testing with Iowa Republicans

Although Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has not formally declared his intent to run for president, he is already testing messages with Republican activists in Iowa.

A survey distributed to Iowans via text shows the governor’s team searching for points that could persuade GOP caucus-goers, not only highlighting what DeSantis has done in office—the focus of his remarks in Davenport and Des Moines on March 10— but also his military service and relative youth compared to former President Donald Trump.

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Susan Clark in storybooks

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

I once drove a busload of visitors to the little park we call Mark Twain Overlook and heard their company’s guide tell them: “He lived in Muscatine for about three years, and his house was up here.”

I simply grinned. I was just the driver, not the history police.

Did you know Mark Twain lived in Muscatine? That part is true—all you need to know if you want to mention his storybook characters for whatever you’re selling or even name some streets and subdivisions. We’ve probably done more of that here than anywhere else outside of Hannibal, Missouri.

How many days he was here—or nights—doesn’t matter. He judged our sunsets the best anywhere. Boosters took it and ran.

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Pivotal years

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

Lines by Lin-Manuel Miranda run through my head while I’m researching Iowans from the past.

“And when you’re gone, who remembers your name? | Who keeps your flame? | Who tells your story?”

More than a fine song in Hamilton: The American Musical, it’s a reminder of where history comes from.

What facts are important to remember—from whose point of view? Who is important to remember—and why? Who keeps their flames alive?

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The racists in our midst

Writing under the handle “Bronxiniowa,” Ira Lacher, who actually hails from the Bronx, New York, is a longtime journalism, marketing, and public relations professional.

My aunt, who raised me after my parents died, would wake up early on Sunday to prepare a meal, then take a cab, at great expense, to visit her sister, confined to a mental institution. “If she were Catholic,” one of the nurses in the ward told me, “she would be a saint.”

But she also threw around the word “shvartze” to refer to black people. “Shvartze” technically means “black” in Yiddish, but it’s also the equivalent of the N-word. So, yes, my aunt was a racist. But she also did good for me, her sister, and uncounted others. And I still say a memorial prayer for her on the anniversary of her death.

No such sentiment may be forthcoming for Scott Adams, the longtime cartoonist who created “Dilbert.”

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One senator asked why wait longer

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

I like to think Beth Crookham is channeling Underground Railroader ancestors who came from Ohio in the 1840s.

I knew her in Muscatine about 20 years ago when she was a community activist, a promoter of the performing arts with a business background at her family’s sports-lighting company. Now she’s an East Coast producer, singer-songwriter, and recording artist.

As I write this column, I am enjoying her song “Good Trouble,” an homage to John Lewis and other nonviolent change-makers.

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Get ready to march. It’s that bad, folks!

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

Yes, brace yourself. Governor Kim Reynolds has given every indication she wants on the national stage. Anything to get out of Iowa before public schools are shuttered, hog sh*t clogs the Raccoon, drinking water costs more than gas, and the last of the state’s topsoil flows into the sea.

Give Reynolds credit. She’s ridden unbridled ambition, a particle of intellect, a nod from her predecessor Terry Branstad, MAGA hysteria, the Iowa State Fair, and Herculean bullheadedness into Terrace Hill. And she’s stayed there by pushing the red-state agenda that plagues all of America, and has seemingly put ordinary people into a deep stupor. 

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Boldly for equal rights

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

At the 1865 Republican state convention it was Henry O’Connor of Muscatine who nominated Gov. William M. Stone for re-election. Next came the vote of acclamation moved by General Marcellus Crocker, the ailing former commander of the Iowa Brigade.

Iowa’s two-term sixth governor was a popular war veteran and supporter of Lincoln. Until recently I’d given little notice to his part in the equal-rights cause.

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As if an earthquake

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

Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War. That’s where I’m headed in this series, what I’m pondering as I write this year-end column.

I was raised on the Watch Night tradition started by Moravians and adopted by Wesleyans in England and brought to America. Black Americans gave new meaning to Watch Night on December 31, 1862, praying and watching for President Lincoln to make good on his call for freeing slaves in the rebellious South. It came to be Freedom’s Eve.

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One thousand armed black men

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

In July 1863 the War Department authorized Col. William A. Pile “to raise a regiment of men of African descent” to be known as the “First Regiment of Iowa African Infantry.” Keokuk was their rendezvous, and Alexander Clark of Muscatine was a main recruiter. While serving in Arkansas, the regiment was reorganized as the 60th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT).

After the war it was said the regiment had included “about every man of African descent in the state who was capable of performing military service.” (Davenport Gazette, April 17, 1867) 

An official 1911 report repeated the claim and said there was “an ardent desire” by “Iowa men of negro blood” to fight against slavery. 

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"Now ask the Legislature to do its duty"

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

People my age look back and exclaim how fast time flies. We reflect on what we learned as children and how that shaped who we became.

This column is published on my 72nd birthday. Were I born only 72 years earlier—in 1878—and growing up in Muscatine, I could have witnessed firsthand the oratory of our famous “colored” neighbor Alexander Clark. As an 11-year old, I could have attended the sendoff celebration when he departed for Liberia as the new U.S. consul, one of the highest honors accorded any Black person in 19th century America.

I like to believe I’d have felt proud of our town—Clark’s chosen home since 1842—and proud of our state where his achievements had been important and lauded.

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The time has come to license midwives in Iowa

Rachel Bruns is a volunteer advocate for quality maternal health care in Iowa.

The 2022 Iowa legislative session saw the most significant momentum in more than forty years of advocacy for the creation of a licensure of direct-entry midwives in Iowa. With the 2023 legislative session underway, I will review the pivotal moments in the 2022 legislative session and explain why the Iowa legislature and Governor Kim Reynolds should prioritize enacting a midwifery licensure bill.

While I have addressed the need to provide a licensure for Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) in previous pieces, I will go more in-depth in providing background on why all Iowans should want and support CPMs practicing in our state.

Note: I would not benefit directly in any way if this bill passed, as I am not a birthworker (doula, midwife, physician), and I do not plan on having any more children. Through my volunteer work with the International Cesarean Awareness Network, I have learned a lot about the different types of midwives and believe Iowans have been “dealt a bad hand” by not having knowledge or access to community birth options that are more readily available in other states and other high-income countries. Iowa families deserve to have all options available for safe and quality maternal health care.

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Middle initials

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

The first draft of history is the newspaper. Or used to be.

Certainly the Muscatine Journal archive is a main source about Alexander Clark, maybe the most important one. As early as 1853, the editor saw his neighbor’s life as news worth reporting. As Clark’s fame grew from local to national and beyond, John Mahin’s paper supplied evidence of what was said at the time about Iowa’s champion of emancipation and equality.

During the 1880s, Clark and his son worked at publishing a leading Black newspaper in Chicago, The Conservator. Bits of it quoted or mentioned in the Journal are some of the best remnants of an undertaking that put Clark on the executive committee of the national Black publishers association.

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Governor's school vouchers would widen Iowa's social divide

Henry Jay Karp is the Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Emanuel in Davenport, Iowa, which he served from 1985 to 2017. He is the co-founder and co-convener of One Human Family QCA, a social justice organization.

I am writing this from a hotel room in Scottsdale, Arizona where I am isolating after coming down with COVID-19.

Once again, Governor “COVID Kim” Reynolds has shown us her true colors. She is governor to the rich, enabling the rich to get richer, while she works to widen the class divide in the state. She is seeking to secure a defined underclass, by undermining the public school system; a system created to provide equal educational opportunities to all and a pathway to self-advancement for every Iowan.

If she is successful, we can see similar private school voucher programs popping up in many other red states.

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Why I'm running for Des Moines City Council

RJ Miller is an advocate, activist, and executive director of Greater Opportunities Inc, a Des Moines-based nonprofit. He was an independent candidate for the Iowa House in 2022.

I’m running for the at-large Des Moines City Council seat now held by Carl Voss, because I believe the council needs more diversity and more council members who come from a grassroots background, for and from the people they represent.

I’m running because our city needs real leadership. Des Moines needs someone who will unify and truly fight for the people’s best interests. Residents deserve someone who will fight against gentrification, redlining, and eminent domain. More important, the city deserves an anti-sellout, anti-establishment councilman.

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The 22 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2022

Governor Kim Reynolds, the state legislature, and Iowa Supreme Court rulings inspired the majority of Bleeding Heartland’s most-read posts from this year.

This list draws from Google Analytics data about total views for 570 posts published from January 1 through December 29. I wrote 212 of those articles and commentaries; other authors wrote 358. I left out the site’s front page and the “about” page, where many people landed following online searches.

In general, Bleeding Heartland’s traffic was higher this year than in 2021, though not quite as high as during the pandemic-fueled surge of 2020. So about three dozen posts that would have ranked among last year’s most-viewed didn’t make the cut for this post. Some honorable mentions from that group:

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Keeping schools safe from racial abuse

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

Earlier this month, the Kansas City Star’s editors wrote about White Kansas City-area high school students who were racially taunting Black players on an opposing basketball team.

In the same week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights levied serious changes against the Ottumwa, Iowa school district (as per numerous newspaper accounts). Following release of the OCR’s report, the Ottumwa Courier’s editors took the superintendent to task, saying he has “skirted the harsh realities of what happened.” The realities of racial abuse are clearly enumerated in the OCR report, which is online (and reproduced at the bottom of this post).

The agency’s findings are grave and require the school district to take extensive steps of remediation.

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More Frank and Lynn on race

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

Any tidbit related to Muscatine’s equal-rights pioneer Alexander Clark gets my attention, so one phrase was all it took to start me researching “George Jones, who cultivates A. Clark’s farm on the Island.” (Muscatine Journal, August 22, 1879)

December 3, 1863: “George Jones exhibited a commendable degree of patience and excellent horsemanship, finally inducing the refractory animal to go off in a horsemanlike manner.” I’ve learned more, but not very much more, about George Jones, 1828-1888, variously classified by census-takers as Black, White, and Mulatto (mixed).

My previous column introduced two of his “white” descendants, Frank Best and Lynn Bartenhagen.

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Memorializing the African Holocaust

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

In my years, I have visited many American historical sites. When I was seven, my parents took me to the Alamo. It was 1950. My dad was a newly appointed chaplain at Lackland Air Force base near San Antonio.

If my folks knew the real history, they didn’t say. I doubt they did. We were from the North. So, the story we were told, the Alamo myth (as I now know), became the story we believed to be true.

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New film puts new definition on “Woke”

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

I saw the trailer for Will Smith’s new film “Emancipation.” Smith’s character Peter is the enslaved man whose terribly scarred back was photographed in 1863 and viewed by millions during the Civil War era and beyond.

I immediately thought of Governor Ron DeSantis saying, “Florida is the state where WOKE goes to die.” He was speaking, wife and kids at his side, just after the November election where he was re-elected with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

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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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Affirmative action benefits all students and communities

Matt Sinovic is the Executive Director of Progress Iowa, a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization.

Iowans know everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status. We know education is one of the greatest methods to achieve success, and we believe talented students from all backgrounds deserve a fair shot to overcome obstacles to educational opportunity.

We also know that the greatest opportunity to learn comes in diverse settings, where we can discuss with and learn from people of different races, religions, and ethnicities. Learning from people with different backgrounds benefits our nation, our communities, our workforce and our students. 

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Not all Iowans welcome in Kim Reynolds' field of dreams

“Here in this field of dreams that we call home, anything is possible,” Governor Kim Reynolds declares near the end of her last television commercial before the November election.

Although the ad is superficially upbeat, its script and carefully chosen images convey an exclusionary message. To Reynolds, the place “we call home” is for people like herself: straight, white Christians from rural areas.

It’s another divisive move for a candidate who already spent heavily to bring racist tropes to Iowans’ tv screens.

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Shaimaa Aly: Committed to addressing the social dimensions of health care

Shaimaa Aly explains why she is running for the board of Broadlawns Medical Center, Polk County’s public hospital.

My name is Shaimaa (shy-ma) Aly. I was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt to an upper middle-class family of three kids, two boys and a girl.

My mom is a dermatologist specializing in facial cosmetic surgery. My dad was an economics professor and a government official who believed that quality education is the key to success, so my siblings and I were sent to private Catholic schools growing up.

As a Muslim who attended a Catholic school, I learned to embrace different religions, points of view and peoples.

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Maternal health questions for Broadlawns trustee candidates

Rachel Bruns is a volunteer advocate for quality maternal health care in Iowa.

In August, I spoke to the Broadlawns Board of Trustees for the third time in the past four years.

You can read my comments from my first time speaking during their citizen comment period in July 2018 when I was five months pregnant and looking for VBAC supportive care for the birth of my second child. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this experience launched my maternal health advocacy.

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Take two on Kim Reynolds' racist campaign commercial

Governor Kim Reynolds’ re-election campaign continues to air a television commercial that plays on racist tropes in order to boost the governor among the largely white Iowa electorate.

Reynolds’ campaign spokesperson Pat Garrett has not replied to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about the commercial. But after Iowa Democratic Party chair Ross Wilburn denounced the ad as “a cheap, racist and dangerous stunt using harmful stereotypes to score political points,” Garrett told some other reporters that the spot “contrasts the failed policies supported by liberal Democrats across the country with the common sense leadership of Gov. Reynolds.”

Visual evidence shows the ad-makers were determined to create negative associations with Black women. The tactic would undermine the governor’s Democratic challenger Deidre DeJear.

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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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Kim Reynolds race-baits in new tv ad

Nothing happens in a campaign commercial by accident. Strategists plan every word and image, with the candidate’s approval. Directors may film many takes to get the perfect cadence for every line.

So Iowans should understand: the racist tropes in Governor Kim Reynolds’ latest tv ad are deliberate.

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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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Aleck's prize squash

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

Did you know the Iowa State Fair was held on “the island” south of town in 1856 and 1857?

From the Muscatine Journal, October 9, 1857: “A squash raised by Alexander Clark weighed 177 pounds, but as Aleck is a colored man, we presume the committee could not, according to the Dred Scott decision, award the premium to him in preference to his mule. It would be ‘unconstitutional.’”

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Emancipation jubilation

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

Juneteenth is an easy holiday to miss if you aren’t watching for it. Still, we Iowans pride ourselves on being out in front on justice and equality, so this is for us.

You probably know it’s about the Emancipation Proclamation and the outpouring of jubilation when the long-delayed news finally reached Texas.

Did you know Governor Tom Vilsack signed a bill in 2002 declaring the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Iowa? Then last year, amid a season of “racial reckoning,” President Joe Biden signed the bill designating Juneteenth a federal holiday.

The historic pages of the Muscatine Journal yield few mentions of the word. The first I find is a 1985 column by Aldeen Davis, titled “Texas has its own holiday.”

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Rebecca the pioneer

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

The name of Susan Clark Junior High is meant to evoke a 12-year-old student and her father who sued a school board in 1867. Iowans celebrate the resulting state Supreme Court decision for ending separate-but-equal public education in our state.

That board’s modern successors voted in September 2019 to name Muscatine’s newly combined middle schools for the younger daughter of Iowa’s equal-rights champion.

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Predatory lending perpetuates racial wealth gap

Helen Redding is a Waterloo entrepreneur, business owner and and strong woman of faith. Over the past several years, after opening her salon, Helen has created multiple other businesses with her husband and children.

Going to a bank to get a loan should be an easy process if you have everything ready to go. Getting that loan from a bank, especially when you have business experience, good credit, and references, and proven success should be an easy process, and most banks will tout how easy it is to qualify for a loan too.

Unfortunately, even with advanced qualifications, Black Americans are twice as likely to get denied a loan. Systemic racism has busted the racial wealth gap wide open, and predatory lending practices perpetuate the gap. 

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School "transparency" is a cruel hoax

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher, and for 30 years he was a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

The Kansas City Star’s editorial board warned its readers on June 2 that “the arch conservative Liberty Alliance has created a Woke Heat Map.” The website is an interactive map of Missouri with dots representing “hot spots” where, as the Alliance claims, “the Woke Agenda … is permeating.” 

The Alliance is a faction of ultra-right zealots who use a website to undermine democracy—and raise money from an easily duped clientele. The Springfield (MO) News-Leader reports one hotspot in its area, and six in St. Louis, three in Kansas City, and one in Columbia with alleged “woke agendas” — “where toddlers are groomed with sexually explicit books.” This was in the first week.

It’s fraud. In nearly all cases, the New-Leader says, the documentation used to designate a “woke” hotspot is based on a tweet, column, or article from a conservative leader or platform.

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The impossible race

ReShonda Young is an entrepreneur from Waterloo and a co-founder of Bank of Jabez.

Imagine a race between two people from New York to California. One person receives a bicycle and the other an airplane. The first to get to California is the winner. It’s a structurally unfair race for the bicyclist.

That’s what the wealth gap is like for Black families in America. It’s an impossible race. White people have a 400-year advantage on wealth, power, and economic mobility. And it bears stating: the system is not broken — it was rigged like this by design. The pervasive, generational inequality is systemic and structural.

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Ten Iowa Democratic legislative primaries to watch in 2022

UPDATE: I’ve added unofficial results for each race.

Iowa Democrats have more competitive state legislative primaries in 2022 than in a typical election cycle. That’s partly because quite a few House and Senate members are retiring, and partly because the redistricting plan adopted in 2021 created some legislative districts with no incumbents.

In most of the races discussed below, the winner of the primary is very likely to prevail in November. However, a few of the districts could be targeted by one or both parties in the general election.

All data on past election performance in these districts comes from the Iowa House and Senate maps Josh Hughes created in Dave’s Redistricting App. Fundraising numbers are taken from the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board’s database.

This post is not an exhaustive account of all contested Democratic primaries for state legislative offices. You can find the full primary candidate list here.

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"Current events do not belong in history class"

Nick Covington taught social studies at Ankeny High School from 2012 to 2022 and became the full-time Creative Director of the Human Restoration Project when his teaching contract ended on June 1. You can follow Nick on Twitter @CovingtonEDU. This article was originally published on May 15 on Medium.

On Feb 25, 2022, I resigned as a social studies teacher at Ankeny High School, a position I have held since 2012, effective at the end of the school year. I will not be returning to the classroom this fall.

I have not told all of this story in one place, but I want readers to understand the full context of my decision to leave in its relation to our nation’s destructive and divisive cultural forever war.

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Iowa Republicans fund anti-abortion clinics but not proven maternal health solutions

Iowa’s health and human services budget for the coming fiscal year includes a $500,000 appropriation for a new “maternal health” initiative modeled on an ineffective, wasteful Texas program.

But the bill, negotiated by House and Senate Republicans and approved on party-line votes in both chambers May 23, does not extend postpartum coverage for Iowans on Medicaid, a documented way to reduce maternal mortality.

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Cindy Axne should withdraw her racist police bill

Jaylen Cavil and Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz co-authored this commentary. Cavil is a Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 36. Murguia-Ortiz is an independent candidate in Iowa Senate district 17.

Dog whistles have been a feature of U.S. politics for decades. President Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens,” President Bill Clinton’s “law and order” campaign, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calling Barack Obama a “food stamps president” are all examples of racist talking points. Politicians use coded language when trying to garner support by triggering racial anxiety. 

Today’s version of the “war on crime”—a reaction to nationwide calls to defund the police and fund communities instead—is no different from the racist wars on drugs and poverty that have led to the incarceration and deaths of millions.

With the introduction of the Invest to Protect Act, U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (D, IA-03) and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley have joined forces to re-employ this dog whistle strategy.

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Regulating health care

Sondra Feldstein is a farmer and business owner in Polk County.

It’s conventional wisdom that Roe v Wade was a poorly written judicial decision. Not the first, nor the last.

I’m not a constitutional law scholar and I can’t say whether the weight of precedent should counteract the weakness of a poorly reasoned opinion. But each and every one of the conservative justices who can be expected to concur with the draft opinion overturning Roe assured senators during their confirmation hearing that the 1973 precedent was settled law, and that the principle of stare decisis carries such grave weight that the prospect of overturning “settled law” was unlikely.

But then, for anyone who believed what those potential justices said, I have the proverbial bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. It just isn’t relevant to ask whether future justices lied under oath, because everyone knew they were lying. It’s a game we play.

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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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When race came to dinner

David Mansheim is a retired lawyer, educator, and businessman living in Parkersburg, Iowa (Butler County).

The 24/7 Wall St website recently ranked Iowa as the third-worst state and the Cedar Valley area as the sixth-worst city in the country for Black Americans to live, based on key economic indicators. It’s far from the first time the Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro has made this list.

The news sparked an intense dialogue with my friend over dinner, when I asked why that could be.

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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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George Flagg Parkway must be renamed

The Des Moines Black Liberation Movement and Des Moines People’s Town Hall co-authored this piece. Des Moines BLM can be reached through Facebook, Twitter, or email: contact@desmoinesblm.org. Des Moines People’s Town Hall can be reached through Facebook, Twitter, or the group’s website.

The City of Des Moines will soon begin plans to make major alterations to George Flagg Parkway on the south side. The road grade will be raised several feet above the floodplain. Part of the road will also be realigned to connect to SW 30th St to avoid flooding on this heavily-used truck route.

The investment of millions of taxpayer dollars into this project should not happen without conversation around the road’s current namesake. We created our petition to showcase public support for changing the name.

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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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Iowa legislature may be more diverse after 2022 election

Iowans may elect more people from under-represented populations to the state legislature in 2022, Bleeding Heartland’s analysis of the primary and general election candidate filings indicates.

One barrier will certainly be broken: as the only candidate to file in House district 78, Democrat Sami Scheetz will become the first Arab American to serve in our state legislature.

The lawmakers who convene at the statehouse next January may also include Iowa’s first Jewish legislator in nearly three decades as well as more people of color, more LGBTQ people, and the first Paralympian.

A forthcoming post will discuss prospects for electing more women to the Iowa House and Senate.

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Cannabis criminalization is failed public policy for Iowa

Senator Joe Bolkcom represents Iowa City and has been a leading voice in the state legislature for updating Iowa law on cannabis.

This March 22 marks the 50th anniversary of an important report from the Shafer Commission, a group appointed by President Richard Nixon, tasked with studying marijuana and issuing policy recommendations. The group’s findings called for the decriminalization of cannabis possession in the U.S., but alas, the suggestions went unheeded.

Fifty years later, Iowa remains one of nineteen states where you can still be locked up for minor cannabis possession.

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An Iowa classic (and others) rebranded

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

A product with deep Iowa connections recently reached the century mark: the ice cream treat now known as “Edy’s Pie”, which, until a year ago, was called Eskimo Pie.

An outgrowth of the George Floyd tragedy has been increased awareness of racial stereotypes that have existed for decades. Eskimo Pie’s owner sought to abandon a word considered derogatory by its association with non-Native colonizers who settled in the Arctic and used the term. Although some changes, like this one, happened recently, others have been under consideration for many years.

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Remembering Richard Harvey Cain of Muscatine

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Richard Harvey Cain (1825-1887) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal. 

Researchers rely on the archived pages of the Muscatine Journal to reveal much of what can be known about our local history.

Whenever we honor Alexander Clark, we can thank the editor and publisher who led this paper for half a century. Clark starts appearing in John Mahin’s paper in 1857.

February 6: “We are indebted to A. Clark of this city for the proceedings … of a convention of the colored people of Iowa held here…. It was resolved to petition the Constitutional Convention to extend the right of elective franchise to native born negroes and to bestow upon them all the rights and privileges of citizenship.”

But then there’s this, on February 10: “A frame building on Seventh Street, near Iowa Avenue, was destroyed by fire last night. … Excepting the owners of the building, the one who will feel his loss most severely is Richard Cain, the pastor of the African M.E. Church, who occupied one of the apartments. Besides most all his household furniture, he lost a library worth not less than $150.”

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Racism isn't the problem

Sondra Feldstein is a farmer and business owner in Polk County.

It’s easy to call the Republican Party racist and homophobic when all the books they want to ban happen to deal with people of color, members of a minority religion, or LGBTQ issues; when a predominantly Black demonstration is a “riot” and a predominantly white one “legitimate political protest;” when legislation to curb non-existent voter fraud targets voting methods more often used by people of color. 

But white nationalist ideology in its current iteration in the United States is not simply racist. The definition of racism as “belief that another race is inherently inferior” does not begin to explain 21st century white nationalism. It is much more complicated than that.

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Alexander Clark: A figure of national significance

This column by Daniel G. Clark first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

Muscatine’s first Alexander Clark Day was proclaimed by Mayor Walter Conway in 1958. Sixty years later the city council voted unanimously to honor the famous resident’s birthday in perpetuity.

August 1890: “Alexander Clark, the new minister to Liberia, and who is known throughout the country as the colored orator of the West, was born in Washington county, Penn., February 25, 1826.”

So begins the short biography published nationwide and surely authorized by Clark himself. In 1872 the media-savvy publisher-lawyer-churchman had turned down President Ulysses S. Grant’s offer of appointment to Haiti, reportedly because the job didn’t pay enough.

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Honoring Alexander Clark

This column by Daniel G. Clark first appeared in the Muscatine Journal. Dan says he is not related to Alex but is proud to claim him as “brother by another mother.”

February 25 is Alexander Clark Day in Muscatine.

In 2018 the city council unanimously affirmed that we will celebrate our famous resident’s 1826 birthday in perpetuity.

How convenient that our holiday comes during Black History Month!

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Confronting racism starts with a solid education

Steve Corbin is a freelance writer and emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa.

Racism and white supremacy may be America’s top domestic problems. A person with a sound educational background would be hard pressed to embrace the authoritarian view that racism is good.

Wray Herbert contends racism is a form of stupidity. Herbert is Psychology Today’s editor-in-chief and behavioral science editor and columnist for numerous respected publications. Herbert asserts low intelligence, lack of mental ability, and cognitive rigidity are often characteristics of people who hold white supremacy viewpoints.

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Iowa is better than this. At least it should be!

Rabbi Henry Jay Karp explains the concept behind One Human Family QCA and a statewide event the group is organizing on February 16.

As a sociology major in college, I was first introduced to the term “Herrenvolk democracy.” According to Wikipedia, a Herrenvolk democracy “is a system of government in which only the majority ethnic group participates in government, while minority groups are disenfranchised.”

The German term Herrenvolk, meaning “master race,” was used in 19th-century discourse that justified colonialism with the supposed racial superiority of Europeans. If you are a Jew, like me, the fact that the German term “Herrenvolk” literally means “master race” should send Holocaust shivers up your spine.

To be quite honest, the United States has always been, in some ways, a Herrenvolk democracy in that we have a long history going back to our founding of granting rights to certain privileged classes and denying them to others. 

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Black History Month—Discovering, confronting systemic racism

Glenn Hurst is a family physician in southwest Iowa and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

I grew up the younger of two boys in a military family whose ancestors immigrated from western Europe. By the time I was old enough to be making significant memories, my family had settled into a rural community just outside the Air Force base where dad was stationed in Nebraska. I did most of my growing up in that small town.

This was the late 1970s and early 1980s. To my memory, all the kids in my classroom for the first eight years were Caucasian. I do not recall a single person of color. I do not recall a single book we read or that was read to us where the main characters were anything other than white, mostly male, and gender normative.

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Iowa Democrats: It's time to challenge ourselves

Ellen Goodmann Miller is a community and resource development specialist and political consultant.

I’m a fourth generation Iowa Democrat activist. One of my great grandfathers helped found the local carpenters, molders, and machinist unions in Dubuque and another ran for state senate in Union County. My mom was party chair when I was a kid and my siblings and I would spend Saturdays roaming the halls of the UAW Local 94 or in the legendary smoke-filled Riverside bowling alley.

I loved it. I loved being surrounded by working-class Iowans who valued fairness and community. These experiences instilled in me a commitment to service and to justice.   

Throughout my life, I’ve volunteered on and staffed many campaigns, recently on the political teams of the Biden-Harris campaign and State Representative Ras Smith’s gubernatorial campaign. And I’ve carried on the tradition of bringing my daughters with me into this world. For so long, I’ve taken pride in the values of the party and found a home among the people within it.

After my experience on Smith’s campaign, and as I’ve seen more clearly what we’re valuing as a party, I don’t feel the same pride I once did, nor am I clear on our vision for the future.

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A must-watch MLK, Jr. clip for Iowans

“Share this clip of my father,” tweeted Bernice King, the CEO of the King Center on January 17, the holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “We must study him beyond the end of ‘I Have a Dream.’ (and that’s taken out of context, too)”

I don’t recall seeing this video before today. It’s from a speech in 1968, but I haven’t determined the location. Dr. King spoke about the massive government assistance for mostly-white farmers over more than a century, helping “the very people [now] telling the Black man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

The civil rights leader delivered a similar message in other venues, for instance while visiting Ohio Northern University in January 1968, and during a March 1968 appearance at Grosse Point High School in Michigan.

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What "Critical Race Theory" actually is

This column first appeared in the Jefferson Herald and the Carroll Times Herald.

One evening in late October, the six candidates for the Greene County Community School Board were taking questions from district residents at a candidates’ forum held at Greene County Elementary School. One of the first was what each candidate thought about teaching critical race theory in the school district’s classes.

After a moment of silence, probably as the candidates tried to figure out what to say, they one by one gave brief answers, generally to the effect that they opposed teaching kids that people of difference races are inherently unequal or that they are inherently racist.

At that point another member of the audience asked if any of the candidates could explain “critical race theory.” Extended silence ensued.

That wasn’t surprising. Despite the bludgeoning of critical race theory among conservative politicians and media outlets, there’s very little explanation of what the theory is and how it might enlighten contemporary society.

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It's time to worry about democracy

Julie Ann Neely: Our democracy is in danger; the basic tenets of our constitution are under attack by the GOP’s authoritarian ideology.

Remember 1984, George Orwell’s dystopian novel about Oceania, where media and educational content were government controlled, and history was rewritten to match the prevailing political climate? 

It was easy to point a finger at the Soviet Union and feel secure and smug, because we had no reason to worry about such things. After all, it couldn’t happen here – we’re a democracy – we are a free country – we have the First Amendment and the Declaration of Independence.

Well – Guess What? It’s Time To Worry.

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Where things stand in Iowa House district 89

Bleeding Heartland’s legislative campaign coverage has tended to focus on battleground districts. But next year, Democrats will have more open seats than usual in solid blue Iowa House or Senate districts.

Although those races won’t affect control of either legislative chamber, they could be important for the future of the Iowa Democratic Party. Lawmakers from safe seats may rise to leadership positions at the statehouse or run for higher office someday. So I intend to keep a close eye on contested primaries in some districts that won’t be competitive in November.

One such race is shaping up in Iowa House district 89, where long-serving State Representative Mary Mascher announced last month that she will not seek re-election. Three Democrats are actively campaigning here. The newest contender, Tony Currin, will take several advantages into the primary.

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Abdul-Samad likely to be Iowa's longest-serving Black legislator

State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad will seek a ninth term in the Iowa House, he announced on Facebook on December 19. He said he decided to run for re-election in House district 34 following “deep thought” and conversations with many constituents of all ages.

Abdul-Samad will be heavily favored in next year’s election. If he wins in 2022, he will become the longest-serving of the nineteen Black Iowans who have served in the state legislature since 1965. Former State Representative Helen Miller represented the Fort Dodge area for sixteen years before retiring in 2018.

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New task force will review Iowa juvenile justice system

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen is forming a task force to undertake a “holistic and comprehensive” review of the juvenile justice system, Iowa’s Director of Juvenile Court Services Chad Jensen announced on December 14.

Speaking at the annual Summit on Justice and Disparities in Ankeny, Jensen explained that Iowa’s juvenile justice system is decentralized among multiple entities and governmental agencies. Some stakeholders have introduced “courageous initiatives” to improve the system in recent years. “While good intentioned,” he added, those programs and services “do have ramifications throughout the entire system.”

The task force will “review the alignment, governance structure, and the funding of Iowa’s juvenile justice system.” Members will also attempt to identify “decision points” that fuel racial, ethnic, or gender disparities for Iowa youth, and develop proposals to improve those outcomes.

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Cedar Rapids mayoral race offers contrast in values, priorities

Cedar Rapids residents will elect either Amara Andrews or Tiffany O’Donnell to be city’s third woman mayor on November 30. O’Donnell received about 42 percent of the votes cast in the November 2 general election. Andrews advanced to the runoff with about 28 percent of the vote, just 41 votes ahead of outgoing Mayor Brad Hart, who endorsed O’Donnell the following week.

While O’Donnell has to be considered the favorite going into Tuesday, the general election leader has lost Cedar Rapids runoff elections at least two times in the recent past. Anything can happen in a low-turnout race, and voter participation usually drops in runoffs.

Although Iowa’s local elections are nonpartisan, some candidates have revealed their party affiliations as one way of expressing their values. Andrews has been campaigning as a progressive Democrat who will make the city more equitable and fair. In contrast, O’Donnell has downplayed her Republican affiliation and presented herself as a candidate for “all of Cedar Rapids.”

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Honor Thanksgiving spirit by respecting Indigenous people

Sometime during the fall of 1621, white European settlers at Plymouth held a harvest feast, attended by some Wampanoag, one of the Indigenous peoples living in the area. Almost everything else you learned about that “first Thanksgiving” was wrong.

The Pilgrims didn’t invite the Wampanoag to share their bounty. Some historians now believe the Native men came because they heard gunshots and assumed the settlement was under attack. (They had formed an alliance with the European settlers in the spring of 1621.) Another theory is that the warriors showed up “as a reminder that they controlled the land the Pilgrims were staying on and they vastly outnumbered their new European neighbors.”

According to Thanksgiving myths, the Pilgrims expressed gratitude for Wampanoag who taught them how to grow or find food in their new surroundings. In reality, “Their role in helping the Pilgrims survive by sharing resources and wisdom went unacknowledged that day, according to accounts of the toasts given by Pilgrim leaders.”

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Maybe Chuck Grassley should do something stupid

Herb Strentz: Hatred and extremism are more visible in the current political climate. Yet those elements have been active in the U.S. for decades.

A few recent news items and internet links point to the same conclusion: the GOP (Grand Old Party) has become the COT (Cult Of Trump), which appears to be just fine with many Republican leaders.

Concern about Donald Trump as a business and political figure goes back decades. But the catalyst for this collage is twofold and recent.

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Consider Carrie Chapman Catt's whole life and legacy

Dianne Bystrom: As with any historical figure, Catt’s life should be evaluated in its total in making the decision about the naming of Catt Hall.

For the past 26 plus years, I have conducted research on women political leaders – especially their communication strategies and media coverage as compared to men. Although my published research in journal articles and books has focused on contemporary women political leaders, I’ve also studied the women’s suffrage movement as director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University from July 1996 to August 2018. In my retirement, I speak often on the women’s suffrage movement and continue my reading and research on this topic.

From these perspectives, I offer my comments about Catt and the current consideration of the naming of Carrie Chapman Catt Hall at Iowa State University.

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Response to “ISU’s culture of exclusion on Catt Hall continues”

Jane Cox is a professor emerita from Iowa State University and the author of many one-woman plays, including one on Carrie Chapman Catt, which she performed in twenty-six states, including at the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian.

As I read the commentary Bleeding Heartland published concerning Iowa State University and Catt Hall, I discovered that the writers believe the “university administration had failed to hold open discussions regarding Catt’s actions,” that “Naylor requested that the university hold open forms to discuss Catt’s history of political expedience, but ISU refused to seek student input,” that the university called itself “the best in the country while operating on stolen land,” that the university “neglected to change their recruitment and retention efforts towards BIPOC students in any meaningful way since the 1990s,” that “Iowa State clings to intellectual dishonesty,” that “Iowa State has always hid behind a veil of objectivity to dismiss the concerns of BIPOC,” and that now “the university has locked impacted students out of the renaming process once again.” 

Since I do not believe objectivity is a negative trait, here are a few facts for which there is documentation.

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ISU's culture of exclusion on Catt Hall continues, 26 years later

Heather Strachan, Meron Wondwosen, Bob Mohr, and Allan Nosworthy co-authored this commentary. Iowa State University is revisiting whether to rename Catt Hall.

The September 29th Movement rising

In the Autumn of 1995, Iowa State University’s grand plans to name a building after alumna and women’s suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt were coming to fruition. However, the university administration had failed to hold open discussions regarding Catt’s actions during her lifetime and how her legacy could negatively impact the welcoming community and student life that ISU had committed to build. 

At the time, Sloss Women’s Center Director Celia E. Naylor objected to keeping Catt’s bad-faith, white supremacist actions under wraps from the student body. Naylor requested that the university hold open forums to discuss Catt’s history of political expediency, but ISU refused to seek student input. At the official ceremony, there was no mention of the xenophobic, racist, and classist tactics and writings Catt used to justify suffrage for white women.

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Racism, paideia, personal transformation, and activism

Edward Kelly, Jr. is a former Pentecostal Fundamentalist minister.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in his 1963 book Why We Can’t Wait, “Suddenly the truth was revealed that hate is a contagion; that it grows and spreads as a disease; that no society is so healthy that it can automatically maintain its immunity.”

I was a vicious carrier of that disease, marked by the symptoms of fear, hatred, and bigotry. I carried and spread it as a contagion for 30 years as a Fundamentalist preacher. I took great pride in my views, even referring to myself from the pulpit as a “Bible Bigot”—as if intolerance based on scripture was morally acceptable.

In 1996, while serving as an interim pastor in a small Assembly of God Church in eastern Iowa, I experienced a depressive suicidal crisis. There is something to be said about the Buddhist practice of accepting suffering as a part of the human experience. My depressive episode opened me up to introspection. After treatment, I began a long process—taking two decades—involving paideia.

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IA-Gov: Deidre DeJear launches campaign, rolls out endorsements

Deidre DeJear made it official on August 14: she’s running for governor, “because Iowa is worth it.” The 2018 Democratic nominee for Iowa secretary of state spent several weeks on the road over the past month hearing about the challenges facing communities of all sizes. In a news release, she indicated education, small business development, and job growth would be the focus of her campaign:

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