Alexander Clark Speaker at MCC on February 27
In 1900, at a time when Jim Crow laws, segregation and the Ku Klux Klan kept blacks and whites separated, residents in Buxton, IA, a thriving coal mining town of 5,000 residents established by Consolidation Coal Company, lived, worked and went to school side by side.
African Americans working as miners, teachers, business owners, doctors, and lawyers made up more than half of the population for the first 10 years and remained the largest ethnic group until 1914. But, by 1922, Buxton was a ghost town.
Author Rachelle Chase has chronicled Buxton and what happened there in her book, “Lost Buxton.” She will be appearing February 27, at Muscatine Community College, as the featured speaker for the annual Alexander Clark Lecture Series. Her presentation will begin at 7 p.m. in the college’s student center, 152 Colorado Street.
Using photographs and rare audio clips from interviews with former Buxton residents, Chase will share what made Buxton so unique, both in terms of the residents and the town itself, and why Buxton is still being talked about today.
Her appearance is co-sponsored by Muscatine County League of Women Voters, the Alexander G. Clark Lecture Series and Muscatine Community College.
Chase is a senior business analyst for Fortune 500 companies, model and published non-fiction and romance author, who lives in Ottumwa. “Lost Buxton,” released by Arcadia Publishing in 2017 is her first non-fiction book. Her second book on Buxton will be released by The History Press in January 2019.
“My first glimpse of what remained of Buxton came in 2008,” Chase said. “Standing in the middle of farmland, gazing at the crumbling ruins of a stone warehouse, I closed my eyes and tried to picture the amazing town that once was – a thriving coal mining town established in 1900 that was integrated, its 5,000 residents, of which 55 percent were African American, living and working side by side.
“Most of all, as I listened to the leaves of cornstalks rustling in the wind, I tried to imagine what it must’ve felt like for the African American residents to enjoy all this,” she said. “At a time when Jim Crow kept blacks and whites physically and socially separated in every way and prevented blacks from using public facilities or patronizing private businesses and when merely being accused of disobeying Jim Crow resulted in them being threatened, beaten, imprisoned, losing their property, or being killed, what did it feel like to live in the same 1-1/2 story house as their white neighbors? “
Chase’s book, “Lost Buxton,” is available in the MCC bookstore for anyone wishing to read it prior to the event.
The Alexander Clark Series is funded in part by donations from the HNI Foundation, the Alliant Energy Foundation, the Muscatine Art Center, the Muscatine Community College Student Senate and many individual donors.
Alexander Clark, for whom the series is named, moved to Muscatine in 1842. He was extremely focused on succeeding in the world, regardless of the color of his skin. Clark was the second black graduate ever from the University of Iowa’s College of Law. His son, Alexander Jr., was the first.
When his daughter was refused admittance to the public high school, he sued the local school board to require her to be admitted. The case eventually made its way to the Iowa Supreme Court where he won, desegregating Iowa’s schools 85 years before the rest of the nation. This is the 150th anniversary of that Supreme Court case.
Late in his life he was appointed US Minister to Liberia by President Benjamin Harrison. He died in 1891 while serving in Liberia.
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