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Clark Decision: Celebrating 150 Years of Iowa School Desegregation: Welcome

In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court rendered one of its great civil rights decisions in Clark v. Board of Directors (24 Iowa 266). Susan Clark, a 12-year-old African-American, was not allowed to attend the school in her Muscatine neighborhood because it was for whites only. The Iowa Supreme Court held that racial segregation of the public schools was unconstitutional under the Natural Rights/Equality Clause of the Iowa Constitution’s Bill of Rights (1857 version). This courageous decision, authored by one of Drake Law School's founders, Justice Chester Cole, preceded both the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the November election in which Iowa voters passed the amendments to the Iowa Constitution deleting racial designations and granting blacks the right to vote. Moreover, Clark, the first court decision in the nation to reject "separate but equal" in public education, preceded the U.S. Supreme court decision Brown v. Board of Education by 86 years. 

This digital display provides additional information about this decision and its sesquicentennial celebration.

150th Documentary

Drake University produced this documentary, Clark 150: A Continuing Legacy, as part of the sesquicentennial celebration of this landmark decison.

Iowa PBS Documentary

Clark v. Bd. of Directors, 24 Iowa 266 (1868)

Governor's Proclamation

Proclamation from Gov. Kim Reynolds recognizing the sesquicentennial celebration of the Clark decision

Source: State of Iowa

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds with Drake Law School personnel after signing a proclamation commemorating the Clark decision.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signs a proclamation celebrating the sesquicentennial of the Clark decision, while Drake University representatives watch.

(L-R) Drake Law School Assistant Director, Alumni Relations & Special Events, Theresa Howard; Drake University Associate Provost, Campus Equity & Inclusion, Erin Lain; Governor Kim Reynolds; Drake Law School Dean Jerry Anderson.

Source: Drake Law School (Photo by Kayla Choate)

Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Iowa leads nation in educational equality t-shirtThe Clark decision positioned Iowa as a leading voice for school desegregation and the constitutional right of universal education. Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended legal segregation of public schools, did not occur for another 86 years.

In the Brown opinion, Chief Justice Earl Warren writes, "We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."


Source: Drake Law School (Photo by Russell Lovell)

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