Iowa Civil Rights Commission Releases Iowa Civil Rights History Toolkit for Educators

Kristin Johnson
(515) 281-4576
Friday, February 12, 2016

Iowa Civil Rights Commission Executive Director Kristin H. Johnson today announced the release of an Iowa civil rights history toolkit aimed at making Iowa’s civil rights history more accessible and teachable in Iowa’s classrooms. The toolkit is being released during Black History Month to celebrate the state’s African American civil rights leaders and Iowa’s special history of guaranteeing equal rights to all.

The toolkit covers Iowa civil rights history beginning with the first recorded decision of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Iowa, which held a Missouri slave owner had no ownership rights to his slave residing in Iowa. The toolkit includes summaries of this and other landmark Iowa civil rights cases, a timeline of important events in Iowa civil rights history, and profiles of Iowa civil rights leaders. Commission staff worked with the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa State Historical Society to gather a variety of primary sources related to history of civil rights in Iowa and tools for analyzing those sources. The Department of Education is assisting the Commission in disseminating the toolkit to Iowa teachers and administrators.

“We are excited to provide this collection of historical accounts of Iowa’s fight against discrimination,” Johnson said. “Every Iowan should be proud that our state has traditionally been at the forefront of the fight to guarantee all citizens’ rights to equality and dignity under the law.”

Iowa has a rich civil rights history and has routinely been ahead of the curve in guaranteeing equal rights for all. Along with the 1839 In re Ralph decision mentioned above, Iowa’s Supreme Court integrated schools in 1868, 96 years before the U.S. Supreme Court; admitted the first woman in the country to the practice of law in 1869; and held separate accommodations for people of color were illegal in 1873. That foundation of equality was built on throughout the years and continues to the present.

Commission staff developed the toolkit as part of its celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965. The toolkit is free and available on the Commission’s website:

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission is a neutral, fact-finding law enforcement agency. Its mission is to end discrimination within the state of Iowa. Its primary duty is to enforce state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing, education, and credit by investigating and litigating civil rights complaints. It also provides conflict resolution services including mediation and conciliation for civil rights matters. In addition to its role as a law enforcement agency, it works to prevent discrimination by providing training and education to the public.
For more information, please contact Kristin H. Johnson at 515-281-4576 or