Alexander G. Clark was born free in Washington County, Pennsylvania, in 1826. Clark is most famous for filing a lawsuit in order to permit his Afro-American daughter to attend public school in Iowa.
At the age of 16, Clark’s family moved to Bloomington, Iowa where he acquired the training as a barber. The trade soon allowed him into the company of Bloomington’s prominent citizens.
Clark purchased property and supplemented his income clearing land, selling timber and growing and selling vegetables. By the age of 22, he was able to purchase a home in a prominent neighborhood. The same year, as a trustee of the AME Educational and Church Society, he was able to procure funds, purchase land, and help build the AME church in Bloomington.
In 1867, Clark sent his daughter Susan to a local school in Muscatine, where she was refused admittance due to her race. Although Muscatine had separate schools for blacks, these schools were not located near where the children lived, making it difficult to attend. The quality of the instructors at these schools was lacking as well.
Clark sued and took his case to the Iowa Supreme Court. 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.”
Clark also had a son who went on to become the first black to graduate for the University of Iowa College of Law. Clark died in Liberia in 1891.