Alexander Clark Fights for Voting Rights in Iowa

Iowa's first constitution of 1846 required blacks to pay a $500 bond to enter the state and barred them from voting, holding office, serving in the state militia, attending public schools and marrying whites. In this clip from the "Lost in History: Alexander Clark" documentary, historian David Broadnax explains how Alexander Clark participated in a campaign for voting rights in Iowa after the end of the Civil War. The campaign was successful and in 1868, Iowa became the first state outside of New England to grant African-American men the right to vote.


When the war ends, Clark's activism takes a new turn. At his urging, the men of the 60th meet in davenport, Iowa, and draw up a petition demanding the right to vote.

David Broadnax: “What Clark and Frederick Douglass and other leaders were saying is we've earned the right to vote. We went off and fought even for a country that didn't treat us fairly. One of the famous quotes from Clark is that he who has been trusted with the musket can and ought to be trusted with the ballot.”

1867 and 1868 turn out to be pivotal years in Clark's life. At about that time a state legislator, John Lake Crookham, moves to strike the word "white" from the Iowa constitution. And Clark's campaign to get African-American men the right to vote finally succeeds.

Excerpt from "Lost in History: Alexander Clark," Produced by The Communication Research Institute of William Penn University, Iowa PBS, 2012

© 2012 The Communication Research Institute of William Penn University


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