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State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release March 12, 2013

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

Statewide Underground Railroad conference set for Saturday

(DES MOINES) – The Underground Railroad and the Iowa Freedom Trail will be the focus of a statewide gathering of historians and others this weekend in Des Moines.

The 2013 Iowa Statewide Underground Railroad Gathering will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. The event is free and open to the public and features keynote speaker Paul Finkelman, President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy of Albany Law School in Albany, New York.

A list of topics to be discussed during the event follows:

  • Josiah Bushnell Grinnell and the Iowa Underground Railroad
  • Underground Railroad Sites and Museums in Iowa
  • Why the Freedom Trail Had to Be Underground: The Legal and Constitutional Issues Surrounding the Underground Railroad
  • Getting to Know the National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program
  • Iowa Freedom Trail Grant Project
  • Facilitated Discussion Regarding the Future of the Underground Railroad History and Sites in Iowa.


In addition to Finkelman, speakers include Douglas Jones, Iowa Freedom Trail Grant Project Manager; David Connon, independent researcher; and Deanda Johnson, Midwest Regional Coordinator National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program.

The event is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, State Historical Society of Iowa, Alexander Clark Cultural Series, National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program and the West Des Moines Historical Society.

Participants arriving on Friday are invited to an Early Bird Gathering and Reception 4-6 p.m. at the James C. Jordan House, 2001 Fuller Road in West Des Moines.

The Jordan House is a restored Victorian Mansion that was the home of James Jordan, the founder of Valley Junction. In the 1850s and early 1860s, the home served as a station on the Underground Railroad. Today, it serves as a museum for the City of West Des Moines and as the office for the West Des Moines Historical Society.

A tour of the Jordan House will be offered at 4:15 p.m. and Judge Michael Streit will give a short presentation at 5:30 p.m. entitled “Chief Justice Charles Mason and the 1839 Decision regarding the Case of Ralph.”

The reception is hosted by the West Des Moines Historical Society.

Contact Jones at 515-281-4358 or doug.jones@iowa.gov for more information.



The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is responsible for developing the state’s interest in the areas of the arts, history and other cultural matters with the advice and assistance from its two divisions: the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council. DCA preserves, researches, interprets and promotes an awareness and understanding of local, state and regional history and stimulates and encourages the study and presentation of the performing and fine arts and public interest and participation in them. It implements tourism-related art and history projects as directed by the General Assembly and designs a comprehensive, statewide, long-range plan with the assistance of the Iowa Arts Council to develop the arts in Iowa. More information about DCA is available at www.culturalaffairs.org.



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