tv African American Museum of Iowa CSPAN March 16, 2019 2:47pm-3:07pm EDT
>> you are watching live coverage of the annual abraham lincoln symposium from historic ford's theater. this is american history tv on c-span3. we will be back with a short break with michael burlingame. he will talk about lincoln's actions as president elect, before his first inauguration in 1861. for now we go to cedar rapids, iowa, with our cities tour team to look at the african american museum of iowa. the african american museum was built 15 years ago. the purpose of the museum was to fill in the gaps, the traditional education was not providing here in iowa. iowa,is achievement in just sharing stories that were not a part of our regular
education system. ironically, some founders of the museum were not from iowa, and when they arrived here and begin to spend time here, they wondered about african-american history in iowa. they did some digging to find out if there was enough to war and a museum. and they found out that there was quite a bit of african-american history in iowa, that was the start of the museum. >> this exhibit is our newest, temporary exhibit. what we wanted to do was focus on african-american migration, not just throughout the nation after the civil war, but specifically to iowa. this map of iowa is depicting the african-american population by each iowa county for the year of 1870, which was one of the earliest census to be able to record african-american population. and you can see by the map where the communities started.
it is very heavy along the southern border, because we are above missouri. and as early back as when african-americans were is slaved, there were underground railroad groups that took you into iowa, so we have some heavily populated areas starting in clay county, but all across the bottom. and of the migrants came into iowa another way, that was through the mississippi river, which borders our state on the right. we were the first free state to get to from the south, if you are traveling up the mississippi. often anybody who is migrating, which typically was young african-american males, the idea was they would come, get a job, secure some funding, send it back home with the hope that their family could come up with him. they ultimately were trying to
make their way as far north, canada was a popular place to go, and oftentimes they would get off on rafts. they would work the steamboats. and they would stop somewhere, they did not have enough money to get further north up into canada, so they would stop, do some work, find african-american communities on the river and they would decide to stay. when african-americans got here, um, and settled into some of these already established communities, they found most employment as being farmhands, laundresses, domestic servants. theey shift occurs when railroad gain popularity, the middle 1800s, which is true for the whole country. as the railroad moved west, iowa
was not missing out, and they were basically the gateway to the west. and the railroads were being built fast and furiously. railroad, they had steam engines and they required coal, another big push, big industry in iowa was coal mining. often times, the actual mines were under contract with a particular company and they would supply coal just to that railroad company. the african-americans that came to work on the railroad and in mining were brought here as strikebreakers. the railroad companies, the coal mining companies, they would send recruiters to the south to find able-bodied men willing to come, they paid their way up here, they gave them stories of jobs a plenty, and potential to
earn. a lot of them did not know that they were strikebreakers when they came up. and when they found more often than not a hostile environment, they were taking away jobs from those trying to unionize and trying to get more equal pay, better pay, so a lot of hostilities occurred with that. one exception in iowa is the coal mining town of books and -- as the started out rest, strikebreakers coming up, but the company cometh consolidation coal company, was unique in its practices. when the strikes ended, they would actually employed the strikebreakers, which was typically not done. they were given training, they were given places to live while
they learned the trade. if they did not know it, they did not always choose experienced miners to come. this employment allowed them to write letters home, bring their families, tell their friends, hey, there is work and land here. and so the town just grew and grew. what else is unique about the city is the company is -- as far as we know, they did not discriminate, it was equal pay for everyone and they allowed a black owned businesses to thrive . so you had this burgeoning black middle class. and it was a very prosperous time and a very prosperous place to live. it is a very short-lived span of history. it wasis about 1900, and
in severe decline by 1937, so only a few decades. the next surge of african-american migrants to iowa was in the illinois central railroad strike that happened in waterloo around 1911. it is the same type of thing as with the mining. the company did not want to allow unions, they do not want to deal with fair wages. so, again, they brought up strikebreakers from the south, actually that worked the same line in mississippi, they brought them up by train. they brought them up to be strike breakers in waterloo. and this did not go over very well with the citizens of waterloo, who were very much behind the striking workers. and it was very difficult when the strikebreakers arrived. they were really not wanted. them, theyd rent to
had no money to buy homes. so what the railroad company did was actually set up a boxcar community. families, workers, sense of families -- sets of families all shared one boxcar. so the hostilities of the people living in waterloo, they were looking at a population that had very few african-americans. about 30 at the time. monthsthe span of a few you are looking at 400, so it was kind of a mass exodus, in their eyes, and kind of a takeover of their town in their eyes. theyhey were really, um, really ostracized for being there. so in the area that the boxcars were set up was ride along the
tracks. it was dubbed smoky row. the press equated it with a double is den kind of area. known for prostitution and gambling and that kind of thing, when all of those entertainments were owned by the white population. [laughter] picture and a unfortunately, that area has not -- has had issues ever since in one way or another. there are still difficulties in waterloo. probably the highest african-american population in the state. and there are still issues to be worked out there, but it does stem back this far to when the first large group had come up. so something to keep in mind is all of this fluctuation of
african-americans to iowa is occurring decades before the great migration, which is most familiar in people's minds. majority of people coming through during the great migration, the largest, the peak years of 1916 to 1918. and the waterloo strike was 1911. buxton was late 1800s. so there is a lot going on here before we have the mass exodus. and people are coming to more urban areas in the northeast, especially, but they are also making their way quite a bit through chicago, and they are also coming through iowa. and often come iowa had been -- often, iowa had been a second or third migration. , those who had come to big cities they are coming from more
rural areas. they are coming from farms, or smaller urban centers, and they find the larger cities are not - - t opportunitieshe are not there, so they make a second or third migration to a new state, like iowa, where you can purchase a piece of land. where you can work on somebody's farm. the cities are smaller and more manageable for people. many world war i, african-american troops felt, or hoped things would be different. they were fighting the war with their white counterparts. there was some a quality, they thought things would be different, race relations would get better. well, the opposite in that being true -- ends up being true. 1919 is a year of, really
between 1919 to 2021, national news of race riots in chicago feelinga, white workers that african-americans are continuing to take their jobs. in iowa, as possibly in other states, where you had the rural railroad working and in the farming and the mining, there is a shift away from those rural areas into the urban areas. manufacturing is now bigger, the railroads are in decline and mines are closing, so you have this shift, as you can see on the map, to more industrial areas. uperloo now has jumped between 1920-1930 to almost 1200 african-americans. the cedar rapids area in the 700s. and there is a large movement in
to the urban areas. this is butting up against european immigrants who have come to work, it butts up against other whites whites whoe coming back for more. from war.back there is the rise of the ku klux asn , which was in iowa, well as many other states. the 1920's was the largest decade for that. they were recruiting for people to join the clan. it was in the newspapers in i love. it was probably about a decade iowa.spapers in it was probably about a decade. it was short-lived.
part of the population moving to these urban centers including buxton, that i spoke about previously. the coal mining town was in 1927.e by there were actually recruiters that came from the meatpacking plants in cedar rapids to bring them to cedar rapids. there was an exodus out of that area. cedar rapids was one urban center they came to. those that had grown up in buxton. buxtonhat had only known very shocked and dismayed how life was like for an african-american to live in one of these urban centers. they no longer had control over their job. they were given the most base, unskilled, hardest, difficult, extreme heat, extreme cold kind
of job that white workers did not want to have.they were considered unskilled . it didn't matter if they had skills. it was not a factor. the realization that not every place is like buxton, there is an equal pay -- there isn't equal pay, to realize that not every place was like buxton and it was truly hard living, and that racial disparity was so rampant. i think it is important to share african history because black andory is iowa's history, people are interested in learning more. we want that for our children. we have field trips, and we will parentser that their come through and they came
because their children told them about the african-american museum and what you learned. -- what they learned. children are galvanizing adults learn more about our shared history. iowaavel to cedar rapids, to learn about its rich history. learn about other stops on the at c-span.org /citiestour. >> we now return to our live coverage from washington, d.c. in ford's theatre theatre for the annual abraham lincoln symposium. this is american history tv on c-span3. --ing up is michael is michael burlingame.
been at history tv has ford's theatre in washington all day with the american lincoln symposium. after the next speaker there 3:55be a speakers panel at wagering presenters responding to questions from the audience and one another. those speakers will be from earlier. of course, for its theater is significant in relation to president lincoln, as he was in the presidential box with his wife mary on april 14, 1865 for a performance of "our american cousin." after john wilkes booth shot the president as he watched the play. the president died from his wounds the next morning.
>> good afternoon. that is my way of saying good afternoon. am the professor of politics at washington and lee university. teach lincoln.t along with washington and lee. i met michael burlingame in the holy land, sprin springfield, illinoi. michael is the most generous scholar i have ever met. evenho