Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 18, 2018

Learning the history of America

Second Baptist Ministries celebrates African American History Month with food, fellowship and singing
By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News | Feb 13, 2018
Source: MPN photo by Karyn Spory Mt. Pleasant residents celebrated African American History Month at Second Baptist Ministries on Saturday. The event began with a meal at noon and singing and fellowship following. Above, Pastor Campbell, left, and Betty Mullins kicked off the celebration with prayer.

In years past, Gabrielle Stokes has highlighted a different African American who has made immeasurable contributions to the American fabric. But this year, as food, fellowship and a whole lot of singing brought residents of Mt. Pleasant together, she asked what figures they could name.

There was a low rumbling in the crowd before they began to holler out names.

George Washington Carver.

Thurgood Marshall.

Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens.

After each name, Stokes asked if they could describe their accomplishments. Carver, an Iowa State University alum whose name is synonymous with peanuts is a botanist famous for discoveries to prevent soil depletion. Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court Justice. Robinson was the first African American professional baseball player and Owens was a four-time gold medalist at the Olympics in track and field.

But there was one name called out Stokes wasn’t aware of — Susan Mosley. Susan Mosley Gradison was the first female African American to graduate college west of the Mississippi. And she received her degree from Iowa Wesleyan.

Adding to Mt. Pleasant’s history, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth both visited the area in the 1870s when they spoke in the Union Block Building.

“Those facts about Iowa Wesleyan and (Douglass) and Sojourner Truth speaking on the square, those are very cool facts,” said Stokes.

“That is something to be proud of.”

Stokes added she is continually impressed with Henry County’s African American history as Salem was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Stokes said a common misconception about Iowa is that it lacks diversity. “When people think of Iowa they don’t think there are African Americans here,” she said. “There is a big African American representation in Mt. Pleasant.”

Stokes added that she was pleased to see a diverse group at the celebration. “A majority here are non-black and I think it’s really, really key to help the community learn about these figures.”

Stokes said the purpose of her presentation isn’t just about shining a spotlight on African American accomplishments, but to also highlight they are American contributions.

“As you can see, all of these figures that were named, even though racially we’re all African Americans, we are Americans,” she said. “We all made our contributions to this great country. Always remember that African American history still is American History.”

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