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Outside In

After 36 contributors spent countless volunteer hours detailing the history of African-Americans in Iowa through original reporting, documents, oral histories and newspaper clippings, Dr. Hal Chase will present their findings during a presentation of Outside In: African-American History in Iowa, 1838-2019, 11:45 a.m. Wednesday at Southwestern Community College.

Chase, who is one of the 36 contributors to Outside In, travels across Iowa giving presentations on African-American history, which he has taught for 43 years.

“This is public history,” said Chase.

According to the Iowa Department of Human Rights, Outside in is a public history about the lives of ordinary Iowans, many who became extraordinary by overcoming obstacles from poor race relations in a state with a black population a little over two percent for decades.

The reason Chase teaches African-American history along side United States history curriculum, is to educate individuals, who might not otherwise understand or know about African-American history its impact on Iowa.

“The approach is chronological. We’ll start at the beginning. Alright, Africa, predominantly west Africa and we come to the present and that goes right up to the 2000s,” said Chase.

Chase includes modern African-American history, because it reflects a positive shift in society. Despite this, he still feels there is work to do to address racism.

“We basically have two choices – to be an anti-racist and work against racists or … just be passive so that other folks are very active in their white nationalism, white supremacy,” said Chase.


Chase said his curiosity and interest in race relations started when he moved from Des Moines to Frankfort, Kentucky with his family at the age of eight. It was in the second grade, when Chase said he found out if he was “either a Yankee, a damn Yankee, or worse.”

It was in Kentucky where Chase met John Sykes, an African-American boy, who became his lifelong friend.

“He wasn’t supposed to be in the neighborhood I lived in,” said Chase. “We had a lot of fun breaking some of the segregation laws of the state of Kentucky,” said Chase.

Chase’s experiences in Kentucky inspired his career, which started as a teaching assistant of the first African-American history course at University of Pennsylvania.

“My career in African American history, I believe, is a testament to being able as a people to go beyond race. John Sykes got that started, but students in the classes, and the sessions that people come to, they document that,” said Chase.

Outside In

Outside In is an audio-visual presentation lasting 16 minutes and 57 seconds with a question-answer to follow.

The Outside In presentation is co-sponsored by the Humanities Iowa Speakers Bureau and the Southwestern Community College (SWCC) student activities department and is free to the public 11:45 a.m. Wednesday in Room 220 at SWCC.

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