Top Black Iowa Democrats: 'Black history is Iowa's history'

Black Iowans discuss the importance of Black History and voting rights during Black History Month.

In honor of Black History Month, Black Iowa News asked Black Iowans to share their feelings about the importance of Black History and voting rights — in their own words. Here’s the next installment from Iowa Democratic Party Chair and State. Rep. Ross Wilburn and First Vice Chair June Owens. Check back tomorrow for another installment. Want to share your views? Learn how below.

The Importance of Teaching Black History

State Rep. and Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn, Ames

Ross Wilburn. Photo courtesy of the Iowa Democratic Party.

As we begin the celebration of Black History Month and recognize the important contributions Black Americans have made to this country, we must also remember that Black history is Iowa’s history.

As the first Black chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, I stand on the shoulders of Alexander Clark, Edna Griffin, Willie Stevenson Glanton and countless others who continue the fight for racial justice.

My own family’s fight for freedom began in Iowa. My second-great grandfather escaped enslavement in the South and enlisted in the 1st Iowa Colored Infantry during the Civil War. Our stories and lived experiences are woven into the fabric of our state. We must teach the full truth of our state’s history — the good and the bad — so we can build a better future for every Iowan.

Read more about Wilburn's genealogy journey:

The Importance of Teaching Black History

Iowa Democratic Party Vice Chair June Owens, Des Moines, Iowa

June Owens. Photo courtesy of the Iowa Democratic Party.

As we pay tribute to the Black Americans who have shaped our history and strengthened our nation, we know that one month falls far short of what these men and women deserve.

I am the child of parents who grew up in the Jim Crow South, and the struggles my family faced in the not-so-distant past are still with us. The fight for equal access to the ballot, the struggle to feel safe in our community and the barriers to ascend to higher office continue today. I may be the first Black woman to serve as vice chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, but I will certainly not be the last.

The actions we take today will become the history future generations look back on.

As long as we continue to move forward, the promise of a brighter tomorrow for every Iowan, no matter what we look like, is within our reach.

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Share your opinion with Black Iowa News for Black History Month

To mark Black History Month, Black Iowa News will publish short original quotes from Black Iowans on the topics of Black history and voting rights. Here's your chance to speak up about the issues you care about. Share your thoughts on Black history or voting rights by submitting your answers in the short Google Form below. It's quick and easy. Quotes will be published throughout the month of February on Black Iowa News and its social media sites. Having trouble using the form? Email your quote and photo to Dana James, founder of Black Iowa News:

Banner: Black History Month art by Christopher Harrison, of Harrison Art Studio.

"Masque 1" by Christopher Harrison, visual artist.

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