Iowa Civil Rights Commission


Our Mission is to eliminate discrimination in Iowa.

Vol. 16, No. 2 Special Edition June 1998

Civil Rights Victory Celebrated!

50th Anniversary: July 7, 1948 - July 7, 1998

Civil Rights Victory

Dedication and Reception

July 7, 1948 - July 7, 1998

Dedication of Commemorative Plaque

11:30 - Noon

SE corner of 7th and Locust Streets

Des Moines

(Rain location: Flynn Building, 319 7th Street)

Reception /Reunion/Reenactment

4:30 - 6:15 p.m.

Iowa Historical Building

600 E. Locust Street

Des Moines

All events are free and open to the public.

Civil Rights Time Line

1839 Iowa Territorial Supreme Court rules that former slave who contracted for his freedom but was unable to pay the contract price was a free man in Iowa. In Re Ralph, A Black Man.
1857 U.S. Supreme Court rules that fugitive slaves in free states and territories must be returned to their masters. Dred Scott v. Sandford.
1863 Emancipation Proclamation is signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
1866 13th Amendment abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude. Civil Rights Act of 1866 guarantees African-Americans the right to contract and equal protection under the law.
1868 Iowa Supreme Court rules that segregated schools are illegal. Clark v. The Board of Directors.
1873 Iowa Supreme Court rules that African-Americans are entitled to equal treatment in public accommodations. Coger v. The North West Union Packet Co.
1875 The Iowa Supreme Court rules that schools cannot deny admittance to African-Americans. Smith v. The Directors of the Ind. Sch. Dist. of Keokuk and Dove v. The Ind. Sch. Dist. of Keokuk.
1880 Iowa Constitution amended to allow African American men to serve in the Iowa General Assembly.
1884 Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1884 prohibits discrimination in public accommodations.
1885 Iowa Supreme Court rules that it is legal for a skating rink to deny admittance to African Americans. Bowlin v. Lyon.
1896 U,.S. Supreme Court rules in Plessy v. Ferguson that the "separate but equal" doctrine is constitutional.
1905 Iowa Supreme Court rules that it is illegal for an eating house to deny service to an African-American juror. Humburd v. Crawford.
1930 Katz Drug Store opens at 7th and Locust in Des Moines.
1943 Earl Vroman, manager at the Katz store, is acquitted of charges of refusing to serve African-Americans under the 1884 Iowa civil rights law.
1944 Maurice Katz, store manager, is acquitted on charges of refusing to serve African-Americans.
1947  Two other Katz employees are acquitted.
1948 July 7 - Edna Griffin, Phyllis Griffin, John Bibbs, and Leonard Hudson are denied service at Katz Drug Store.







July 10 - Criminal charges are filed against Maurice Katz.

August and September - Katz Drug Store picketed.

Sit-ins occur at the lunch counter.

October 6 - Maurice Katz is convicted.

November 11 - Clifford Nixon, operator of Nixon's Luncheonette, is acquitted on charges of refusing to serve African-Americans.

November 23 - Katz' motion for new trial denied and he is fined $50. Katz appeals to the Iowa Supreme Court.











"Committee to End Jim Crow at Katz" founded.

September 16 - jury denies damages in civil case against Nixon's Luncheonette.

October 14 - Griffin's civil case goes to trial and she wins $1.00. Iowa Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the criminal case, State v. Katz.

November - Katz denies service to Edna Griffin, John Bibbs, Arthur Bryant, Barbara Williams, Kenneth Walker, Leonard Hudson, and Gordon Jasper, who file civil lawsuits.

December 2 - Katz settles lawsuits for $1,000, and promises to end discriminatory practices.

December 13 - Iowa Supreme Court upholds the conviction in State v. Katz.

1954 U.S. Supreme Court declares that the "separate but equal" doctrine is unconstitutional. Brown v. Bd. of Education.
1955 December - Rosa Parks of Montgomery, AL, refuses to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, triggering a 13 month bus boycott which eventually integrated the transportation system.
1960 College students in Nashville, TN, begin lunch counter sit-ins. Movement spreads to other cities.

August 28 - the March on Washington takes place, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivers his "I have a Dream" speech. Edna Griffin leads the Iowa Delegation to the March.

Griffin organizes the Des Moines Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

1964 July 2 - President Lyndon Johnson signs into law the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

March - the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) leads a march from Selma to Montgomery, AL, to secure voting rights.

The Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965 is passed and signed into law by Governor Harold Hughes.

1968 April 4 - assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, TN.

Historic Site

Civil Rights Victory

Katz Drug Store

July 7, 1948


At this site where Katz Drug Store once stood, on July 7, 1948, at 3:45 p.m., Edna Griffin, her infant daughter Phyllis, John Bibbs, and Leonard Hudson entered the store and ordered ice cream at the lunch counter. The manager refused to serve them, saying, "It is the policy of our store that we don't serve colored."

Outraged members of the community responded with sit-ins and picketing directed at Katz and other local lunch counters refusing to serve patrons based on their race.

The Polk County Attorney's Office prosecuted the Katz manager under Iowa's only civil rights law, a criminal statute prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations. The manager was found guilty by a jury and fined $50. The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the conviction in 1949.

One week before the Supreme Court ruling, civil rights attorneys Charles P. Howard and Henry T. McKnight, who was head of the local NAACP Legal Redress Committee, negotiated an agreement which successfully ended Katz's discriminatory practices.

These events foreshadowed the modern civil rights movement. Through non-violent protest and legal action in the courts, the movement ended tolerance of open discrimination in our country and resulted in policies and laws prohibiting racial discrimination. It may truly be said that those who opposed the discriminatory denial of service at Katz led the way. This plaque is dedicated to those citizens.


July 7, 1998