Charles Pearson: On Preserving African-American History in Iowa

Fifty years ago, on March 22, 1967, Central College in Pella hosted one of America’s most influential citizens: Martin Luther King Jr., who addressed an audience of 1300 in the college gymnasium. Just over a year later, King was assassinated.

To mark the anniversary, Central College has planned several events to honor King’s legacy and vision, as well as celebrate ways that Central participates in ongoing efforts toward social justice.

As part of the events on campus, Charles Pearson, historical resource consultant with Pearson Consulting and project manager for the Iowa Civil Rights Trails Project, will lead a discussion focusing on the efforts he’s made in developing the Iowa Civil Rights Trails Project, which seeks to highlight Iowa places significant to African American history that are close to being lost forever, through demolition or flooding.

“We’re trying to get each city to re-invest in its own Civil War and civil rights resources. Like in the Quad Cities, we were looking at partnering with American Discovery Trail, the Mississippi River Trail and have a shared pathway. That way we don’t have to create a new trail; we just share it and put up some interpretive signs on it.”

Pearson explains the importance of putting the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. into an Iowa context.

“Everybody’s going to benefit from knowing a local piece of Martin Luther King and not just the national piece. I think that’s the magic of it—to be able to have all of King’s history under one umbrella and share it throughout our state, and [with] anybody that visits our state.”

Pearson’s presentation, “Our History. Our Future: African American Partners in Preservation,” begins at 7 p.m. in Maytag Student Center’s van Emmerik Studio and is free to attend.

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