Dwain Coleman (MA graduate, 2016) has been awarded the Iowa History Center at Simpson College's award for outstanding master's work in Iowa History. His thesis, “Still in the Fight: The Struggle for Community in the Upper Midwest for African American Civil War Veterans,” is a study of the transformative effects of the Civil War on African Americans in the Upper Midwest. Using Newton, Iowa, as a case study, Dwain argues that African American veterans who settled in the Upper Midwest used the political capital of their service, kinship ties, and other social institutions to forge and maintain space for African American communities.
In Newton, African American Civil War veterans and other black citizens reminded their white neighbors of their earned space in the community for decades after the war. They viewed their emancipation and citizenship as rewards for military service and loyalty to the nation and struggled to obtain the full rights of citizenship still denied them. They did this by using the few unconventional political tools at their disposal, namely the political capital accrued through military service and kinship ties. The African American citizens of Newton, as a result, were able to create a prosperous and influential black community and secure many of the social rights reserved for full citizens in what was before the war a region of the country fearful of black immigration.