Alexander Clark

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For the New Zealand rower, see Alexander Clark (rower).
Clark in 1887

Alexander G. Clark was an African-American diplomat who served as United States Ambassador to Liberia. He was born February 25, 1826 in Pennsylvania to parents who had been freed from slavery. His father's name was John Clark.[1] Clark is most famous for suing to allow his Afro-American daughter to attend public school in Iowa.

When Clark was around 13, his family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio for his education and to learn the barbering trade. In 1842 Clark arrived in Muscatine, Iowa where he spent most of the rest of his life. In 1863, during the American Civil War (1861-1865), he enrolled in the First Iowa Colored Volunteers and was promoted sergeant-major, but did not muster due to a physical defect in his left ankle. He then worked to recruit for the Union Army.[1] He worked as a barber, orator, entrepreneur, newspaper editor for The Conservator (which he published in Chicago in partnership with Ferdinand L. Barnett), and as a lawyer. He was very involved in civil rights for the state of Iowa and was involved on a national level.

In 1867 Clark sent his daughter Susan to a local school in Muscatine, where she was refused admittance due to her race. Muscatine had separate schools for blacks, however these schools were not located near where the black children lived, making it difficult to attend and the quality of the instructors was lacking as well. Clark took his fight all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court where he won a ruling based on the Iowa Constitution of 1857 which states that the board of education is required to "provide for the education of all the youths of the State, through a system of common schools. Requiring black students to attend a separate school violated the law which "expressly gives the same rights to all the youths."

In 1869, he was a delegate to the Washington, DC Colored National Convention and was among a committee which met with president Ulysses S. Grant and acted as spokesman of the committee. That same year he was elected vice-president of the Iowa State Republican convention, and in 1872 he was a delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention which nominated Grant. In 1873, Grant appointed him consul to Aux Cayes, Haiti, but he declined the position.[1]

Clark's son Alexander Jr. became the first black to graduate from the University of Iowa College of Law. Clark himself became the second.

Clark was active in freemasonry.[1]

Clark died in Liberia in 1891 where he was serving as the appointed U.S. Minister to Liberia. The appointment by President Benjamin Harrison was one of the highest appointments of a black by a U.S. President up to that point. Harrison also appointed Clark's friend Frederick Douglass as U.S. Minister to Haiti, a post Clark had declined earlier when it was offered by President Ulysses S. Grant.

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  1. ^ a b c d Simmons, William J., and Henry McNeal Turner. Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising. GM Rewell & Company, 1887. p1097-1100