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State Historical Society of Iowa

Alexander Clark’s Speech at the "Colored Convention" in Des Moines, Iowa, 1868

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Courtesy of State Historical Society of Iowa, Clark, Alexander, pp. 1, 10-12, 1868


Alexander Clark, an African-American barber turned lawyer from Muscatine, became a hero of African-American rights in the state of Iowa. In this address to the "Colored Convention" in Des Moines, Clark calls for the Iowa Legislature to approve and then place before the voters the removal of the word "white" from voting laws within the Iowa Constitution. The vote passed, and Iowa became the first state in the nation to have a successful grassroots movement for African-American suffrage. Later in 1868, Clark successfully filed a lawsuit against the Muscatine Board of Education where his daughter was admitted into a formerly white-only school after the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling on the lawsuit.

Full Transcript of Alexander Clark's Speech to the "Colored Convention"

Transcribed Excerpts from Alexander Clark's Speech to the "Colored Convention"

Source-Dependent Questions

  • What founding document does Alexander Clark refer to in his speech? How does he say this document supports the cause of African-American suffrage?
  • Clark asks for suffrage equality, but what equality does he say he is not asking for? What impact might that have on the daily lives of Iowans?
  • According to the third excerpt, what injustice would be happening if African-American suffrage was denied to Iowa citizens?