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Searching for Freedom: African American Migration in Iowa, 1830-1900

March 21 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

- Free

“Searching for Freedom: African American Migration in Iowa, 1830-1900” will explore the history of black movement to and around Iowa during the 1800s, beginning with the arrival of the first African Americans in the 1830s and ending with the creation of one of Iowa’s only black majority communities at the turn of the century. We will look at how and why free blacks, slaves, fugitive slaves, farming clans, war veterans, coal miners, schoolteachers, and African Americans from every other background came to Iowa from throughout the South and other parts of the country. We will explore the hopes that these migrants had for a better life in the Hawkeye State and how they acted on those hopes through work, military service, political and legal action, and community institutions; we will also look at how white attitudes towards them, both locally and nationally, sometimes helped but often thwarted their hopes. All of this will shed more light on the lives of the thousands of African Americans who came to Iowa long before the Great Migration or the Civil Rights Movement and who, despite being greatly outnumbered, had a major impact on the history of their new home.

This program is supported by Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The views and opinions expressed by this program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities Iowa or the National Endowment for the Humanities.


About the Speaker:

Dr. David Brodnax, Sr. is a Professor of History at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, where he has been since 2005. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from Northwestern University and a J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law. His research specialty is African Americans in the 19th-century Midwest, with a particular focus on Iowa. He is currently preparing his manuscript “Breathing the Freedom’s Air: The African American Struggle for Equal Citizenship in Iowa, 1830-1900 for publication, and after that he will begin work on a book about black baseball in the Midwest during the late 1800s and early 1900s. He has presented his research in articles for publishers such as the Annals of Iowa, the African-American National Biography, the Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law; in dozens of presentations at scholarly conferences; at the 2018 Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference; at the African Americans in the Nineteenth Century West Symposium (which he co-organized) in 2016; on NPR and other news outlets; on podcasts for the Midwestern History Association and Iowa State University; and in lectures for various universities, museums, and churches. His courses include: African American History, History of Chicago, Black Cinema, U.S. History 1800-1918, African History, Latin American History, and History of Terrorism Involving the United States.


About the Series: 

Humanities Iowa has generously funded another series of presentations from visiting historians, professors, and lecturers. This year’s series will be tied to our current exhibit, Driven By Hope, which focuses on African American migration following the Civil War. The presentations are between February and July. Topics will focus on responses to migration – music, fashion, food, social responses, legal responses, and even some discussion on current migration and immigration issues. Be sure to join us for these free, engaging, and thought-provoking presentations!


March 21
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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African American Museum of Iowa


Saint Ambrose University
518 Locust St
Davenport, IA 52803 United States
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(563) 333-6000