The Town That Embraced Equality Decades Before Segregation Was Outlawed

September 6, 2019

During the late 1890s to early 1900s, Benjamin Buxton was putting in work! 

Not only did he need to recruit enough hard workers to keep his company, Consolidated Coal, running lucrative contracts through the Northwestern Railroad of Chicago, he also had a vision for a town where Black folks could live, work, and play in peace. So, to Iowa he went. 

The enterprising coal king took the land surrounding his ten coal mines, built encampments for his employees and refused to tolerate ANY segregation whatsoever throughout the newly established town of - what else - Buxton, Iowa’s diverse population.

Soon the number of mining recruits swelled to over 5,000 (peaking at nearly 10,000 by 1910) of which more than half were Black.

Out of the opportunity to make good money doing hard work soon blossomed a community where inequality in housing, on worksites, and within schools simply had no foothold. 

Sadly, with changes in demand for coal, job losses dwindled the population of Buxton after 1927 until finally it was deserted altogether.

Regardless of whether Buxton stuck around, we can still marvel at towns like it, where a Black man was able to provide jobs for a predominately Black community - a community that agreed to reject racial prejudice and outlawed legal discrimination at a time when it was America’s norm.

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