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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE (N.A.A.C.P.) The civil rights advocacy group's Dubuque chapter was founded in February 1988. Ralph Watkins, of the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, convened the chapter's first unofficial meeting at FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH in late 1988 with 65-70 people. (1) The branch began its regular monthly meetings in January 1989 in the basement of ST. MARK COMMUNITY CENTER. It then moved to Peters Commons on the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE campus. The number in the Dubuque branch has been as high as 330 members. (2) Watkins, the first president, was succeeded by Ernestine MOSS.

With the goal of eliminating racism and discrimination in Dubuque, the N.A.A.C.P. worked with the DUBUQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT department in arranging sensitivity training with C. T. Vivian in 1990. Working with the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, the organization encouraged the adoption of a multicultural non-sexist curriculum and the establishment of awareness activities for the students and staff.

The Dubuque Community Advisory Panel was created in March 1993 as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Dubuque and the Dubuque Chapter of the NAACP. The panel was composed of nine members who included a city government representative, a police department representative, three community members, a Dubuque Human Rights Commission member, two minority representatives of the community, and a police officer designated by the DUBUQUE POLICE PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION. Alternate members were designated to serve in the absence of one of these nine members. The Dubuque Community Advisory Panel provided a forum for resident input into the development of the Dubuque Police Department policies and procedures, assuring that they continued to be free from racial or other prejudice. In addition, the Dubuque Community Advisory Panel provided an arena where residents could bring their complaints when they believed the police had violated their civil rights or when they believed police personnel exhibited discriminatory behavior toward them. (3) The same year a special award was given posthumously to Hazel O'NEAL for her dedication and work in the area of multicultural nonsexist education in the public schools. (4)

In June, 1993 the Dubuque branch received the Thalheimer Award, the national organization's highest honor. The award honors branches for outstanding activities and organizational standards. (5)

The N.A.A.C.P. was a primary financial supporter of the CENTER FOR A JUST SOCIETY and the sponsor of an annual Martin Luther King essay contest for area school students. Its members supported the initiative of Constructive Integration that led to the establishment of the Dubuque Council for Diversity. (6) Following cross-burnings in the fall and winter of 1991 and the appearance of the KU KLUX KLAN, the N.A.A.C.P. sponsored rallies in WASHINGTON PARK to encourage racial harmony.

As early as 2011 Lynn Sutton, a member of the Dubuque City Council and newly elected president of the local N.A.A.C.P. chapter, was calling for a rebirth of Dubuque's chapter of organization. (7) A drop in membership below the national requirements of fifty members threatened the existence of the group. At the time, the chapter only had thirty members. (8) Through a rally of support, the organization by June 16, 2011 could announce it had more than 90 members. (9)

In 2014 the local NAACP chapter began monitoring the Housing and Community Development Department's Section 8 rental assistance program overhaul. This followed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announcement that it and the city of Dubuque had signed a voluntary compliance agreement to correct housing policies that HUD said discriminated against the black community. (10) In 2014 the organization was looking at a "new beginning" as it considered opening a youth chapter. (11)

In January 2016 the local chapter announced that it had nearly doubled its membership in 2015. This was primarily due to the establishment of the youth chapter. The youth had expressed concerns that the Dubuque Community School District did not offer classes in African-American studies. The local chapter also wanted a revision of the memorandum between the City of Dubuque and the NAACP. The initial memorandum created a commission to hear complaints about police misconduct regarding civil rights or discrimination. The addendum would open that to all city employees. The NAACP also wished to have a similar memorandum of understanding with Dubuque County. Third, the NAACP wanted in 2016 asked employers to remove the box on job applications requiring applicants to indicate if they had a criminal conviction. (12)






1. "The Dubuque Branch N.A.A.C.P." Online: http://www.dubuquenaacp.com/index.php/history/dubuque-branch-history

2. Ibid.

3. "Dubuque Community Advisory Panel," Online: http://ia-dubuque2.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/1075

4. "The Dubuque Branch N.A.A.C.P."

5. Jerde, Lyn Hanson, "NAACP Chapter Honored," Telegraph Herald, June 22, 1983, p. 2

6. "The Dubuque Branch N.A.A.C.P."

7. Wiedemann, Katie. "Dubuque Chapter of N.A.A.C.P Considering Expansion," KCRG.com. Online: http://www.kcrg.com/news/local/Dubuque-Chapter-of-NAACP-Considering-Expansion-130738923.html

8. "Dubuque NAACP Looking for New Members," KTTC.com. Online: http://www.kttc.com/story/14567242/dubuque-naacp-looking-for-new-members

9. "Juneteenth and NAACP Membership in Dubuque," WQOW.com. Online: http://www.wqow.com/story/14925332/juneteenth-and-naacp-membership-in-dubuque

10. "Dubuque Agrees to Correct Discriminatory Housing Policies," WGEM.com. Online: http://www.wgem.com/story/25257161/2014/04/15/dubuque-agrees-to-correct-discriminatory-housing-policies

11. Montgomery, Jeff. " 'New Beginning' " for Dubuque N. A. C. C. P," Telegraph Herald, November 16, 2014, p. 13A

12. Becker, Stacey. "Local NAACP to Continue Momentum," Telegraph Herald, January 4, 2016, p. 1