A BRIEF HISTORY OF IOWA'S CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVITIES
Iowa's history in race relations indicates that there has long been a positive attitude expressed by Iowans. This attitude has been partly due to the relatively small number of minority, ethnic, and racial groups residing within the state; but it also has been a product of a well established and widespread "equalitarian" sentiment in Iowa which has long demanded equal opportunity for all.
Almost 90 years before the 1964 United States Supreme Court declaration that segregation in public schools was not permissible in this country, the Iowa Supreme Court held that Negroes could not be denied equal access to such Iowa schools. In the case, "Clark v. Board of Directors, 24 Iowa 266 (1868)" the court said, "The Board of Directors may exercise a uniform discretion equally operative upon all . . . but the Board cannot, in their discretion, or otherwise, deny a youth admission to any particular (public) school because of his or her nationality, religion, color, clothing or the like." Similarly, in the 1873 case of Coger v. Northwest Union Packet Company, Iowa's highest tribunal held that the provision of the Iowa Constitution stating that "all men are, by nature, free and equal" entitled Negroes to the same rights and privileges on common carriers as whites.
This long standing Iowa dedication to equal opportunity for all was re-emphasized in 1884. In that year, the legislature enacted a provision making it a crime to deny any individual equal access to specified business establishments, "except for reasons by law applicable to all persons." Only Massachusetts, New York, and Kansas enacted the state statutes guaranteeing Negroes and other minority groups equal opportunity in "places of public accommodation" prior to 1884. On April 14, 1958, the Governor's Commission on Human Relations was established by an executive proclamation of Governor Herschel C. Loveless. In his opening address to the Commission, the Governor outlined in part the functions and fields of activity for the Commission. He noted:
"The fundamental purpose of this Commission, as I envisioned it, is to help enable citizens of our state . . . whatever their religious, national, racial or economic background may be . . . to enjoy, to the fullest extent, the privileges and benefits of citizenship. We seek to guarantee our citizens the right to employment, to education, to housing, to the use of public accommodations, to health and welfare services and to the right to live in peace and dignity.''
The chairman of that Commission,
Dr. Donald Boles, and the secretary, Mrs. David Kruidenier, Jr., presently
serve on the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
Subsequent Governor's Commissions on Human Relations brought to the public's attention the inadequacies on Iowa's 1884 "Civil Rights Act." This statute barred discrimination on the basis of such factors as race, religion, or ethnic background in specifically enumerated establishments. The 1884 "Civil Rights Act" as amended provides that:
All persons within this state shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, restaurants, chophouses, eating houses, lunch counters, and all other places where refreshments are served, public conveyances, barber shops, bathhouses, theaters, and all other places of amusement.
Any person who shall violate the provisions . . . (of the' preceding section) by denying to any person, except for reason by law applicable to all persons, the full enjoyment of any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges enumerated therein, or by aiding or inciting such denial, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor . . .
The first holding by the Iowa
Supreme Court that the statute could be applied to an enterprise
not expressly listed therein was the decision of State v. Katz, 241 Iowa
115, 40 N.W. 2d 41 (1949). The tendency of Iowa Courts has been,
however, to interpret narrowly the legislative intent of the 1884 Civil
Rights Act. Because, therefore, the public accommodations provision specifically
enumerated "all . . . places where refreshments are served, public
conveyances, barber shops, bathhouses . . . and all . . . places of amusement,"
the court construed that it necessarily meant to exclude from its operation
those facilities not so listed. Consequently, many kinds of establishments
catering to the public were left untouched by this provision; they retained
an unfettered discretion to discriminate among their patrons on such bases
as race, religion, or ethnic background. Among these places open to the
general public for a fee that were exempt from the proscriptions of the
1884 Civil Rights Act were retail stores of all kinds, reducing salons,
beauty shops, parking lots, gas stations, schools, health clinics, doctors'
and dentists' offices, hospitals, banks, loan companies, lawyers' offices,
real estate brokers' offices, employment agency offices, and many, many
The Governor's Commission on Human Relations recognized the deficiencies of the 1884 "Civil Rights Act" and due in large part to the efforts of the advisory Commission members, the Fair Employment Practices Act of 1963 was passed by the state legislature. Governor Harold E. Hughes noted in 1963 that "discrimination retards the growth of Iowa's economy. It leads to a dismal and distressing squandering of human resources. It does not allow many Iowans to fulfill their economic potential; thus making all Iowa the poorer for it."
The 61st General Assembly under
the able leadership of Governor Harold E. Hughes enacted Iowa's Civil Rights
Act of 1965 providing for administrative enforcement of the legislation
which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, employment, apprenticeship
programs, on-the-job training programs, vocational schools, employment agencies,
or by the employees, agents, or members thereof.
The Commission created by the Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965 held its first meeting with Governor Hughes in attendance in July, 1965. Since that time, the Commission has been actively involved in problems throughout the State of Iowa. This report reflects the fact that the present Iowa Commission is carrying on the fine Iowa tradition of equality of opportunity for all.