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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.
This digital display provides additional information about this decision and its sesquicentennial celebration.
Drake Law Review Symposium articles by Drake President Earl “Marty” Martin, Drake Professor of Law Emeritus Russell E. Lovell, II, Retired Iowa Supreme Court Justice Robert G. Allbee, Drake Professor of Law Emeritus David S. Walker, Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Mark S. Cady, Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Brent Appel, Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Edward Mansfield, Des Moines attorney Alfredo Parrish & President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.
Chief Justice Mark Cady closed his 2018 State of the Judiciary address reflecting on the historic Clark decision. After describing the facts and legal significance of the case, he reflects on the greater meaning of the Iowa Supreme Court’s affirmation of the district court decision that the schools could not be segregated: “It affirmed Susan Clark as equal with every other child. It affirmed all Iowans as equal. It affirmed a new public sentiment for the future. It affirmed a process of justice in Iowa where one person can turn to the courts for justice and make a difference for all.”
This Nov. 19, 2018 Des Moines Register article discusses the Clark case as well as considering the persisting challenges in equal educational opportunities in Iowa.
Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)
The 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."
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.