community has its Rosa Parks... and Edna Griffin has been the
Rosa Parks of
the Des Moines community for a long time. This is a civil rights
warrior who knew her battleground."
Davis, The Des
Moines Register, August 21,
M. Griffin has been the Rosa Parks of Des Moines for decades;
however, her request for service at a segregated cafeteria there
in 1948 came seven years before Parks' celebrated refusal to
move to the back of a southern bus. Ultimately, Griffin's legal
suits and sit-ins were successful in making such businesses obey
Iowa's public accommodations law. The Fisk University graduate
has devoted her life to the civil rights movement. In 1963, she
organized Iowans to join Martin Luther King's famous march on
Washington, D.C. She also began a Des Moines chapter of the Congress
of Racial Equality (CORE), which supported the voter registration
drive in the South. For many years, her column appeared regularly
in Iowa's statewide minority publication, the Iowa Bystander.
She has also been active in peace and other human rights efforts.
Born in Kentucky in 1909, she grew up on a New Hampshire farm
and moved to Des Moines in 1947. Griffin was inducted into the
Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1985.
received the Community Service Award from Blacks in Government
in 1993 and the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice
in 1998. In 1998, on the 50th anniversary of her successful
desegregation efforts, Griffin was honored by Urban Dreams for
and bravery. A dedication of a commemorative plaque was also
held at the site that once housed Katz Drug Store, followed
by an evening reception/reunion/reenactment at the State Historical
Building. In 1998 the Flynn Building, which housed Katz, was
renamed the Edna Griffin Building. Griffin died on February