50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act

July  02, 2014

      Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Today, local residents and officials celebrated the anniversary by unveiling sites in Davenport with historical links to the African-American struggle for civil rights.

      Charles Pearson, a historical preservation consultant, began researching Davenport's Black community seven years ago. He wants to "give a face" to a part of Quad Cities and Iowa history.

      "How is it possible Martin Luther King came to Palmer College? How is possible Maya Angelou came to Palmer College? How is it possible that you used to have a location called 'The Strip,' a flourishing business district on Harrison Street, but it's not known? How is that possible? What my job to do is to make that possible." 

      Pearson has put together a virtual heritage tour that now has 12 historical sites. They include Goose Hollow, Davenport's Black business district; the headquarters of the 60th Colored Infantry; and Saint Ambrose University, the first Catholic school to start an NAACP chapter. 

     Ryan Saddler, Director of Diversity at St. Ambrose, says the university is one of the sponsors of the heritage trail.

      "The issue I think we really need to be considerate of and cognizant of is that we can't live off of what happened in the past, and so my push is how can St. Ambrose continue to be active in social justice issues--and not just charitable works--but social change and difference.

      Charles Pearson hopes to announce 38 new local historical sites, for a total of 50, next year on the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's visit to Davenport.