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Griffin, Edna, 1909-2000



  • Existence: 1909 - 2000


Civil rights activist Edna Griffin was born in 1909 in Kentucky and raised in New Hampshire. She graduated from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1933, and married Stanley Griffin, a medical doctor. The couple had three children, Phyllis, Linda, and Stanley. Griffin and her family moved to Des Moines in 1947, where she became involved in the Progressive Party, especially in its efforts to end discrimination against African Americans. On July 7, 1948, Edna Griffin became a leader in the long campaign to desegregate the lunch counter at the downtown Katz Drug Store. After Griffin, her daughter Phyllis, and two of her friends were refused service, Griffin organized pickets in front of the store. She later filed charges against the owner under the 1884 Iowa Civil Rights Act. The case drew a good deal of publicity, especially when the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict against owner Maurice Katz in 1949. Because of her actions, Griffin was later dubbed "the Rosa Parks of Iowa."

Griffin continued to be an active participant in the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. She also served as co-chair of Shirley Chisholm's 1972 bid for the Democratic Party's nomination for president, and participated in protests against nuclear weapons at the SAC Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska. Griffin was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Iowa African Americans' Hall of Fame in 1999. In 1998, Iowans commemorated the 50th anniversary of Griffin's successful challenge to racial discrimination at Katz Drug Store and recognized her important contribution to the early Civil Rights movement in Iowa and the nation. Griffin received several awards, and the Flynn Building, which once housed Katz Drug Store, was renamed the Edna Griffin Building. Griffin died in 2000.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Edna Griffin papers

Identifier: IWA0443

Civil rights activist, later known as the Rosa Parks of Iowa.

Dates: 1948-2004

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Des Moines Chapter) records

Identifier: IWA0240

Members of the Des Moines chapter of WILPF studied government policy on nuclear testing, the draft , the war in Vietnam, and the arms race.  They held informational rallies and demonstrations and maintained a vigorous letter-writing campaign.

Dates: 1962-2008

Additional filters:

Administrative records 1
African American women 1
African American women -- Iowa 1
Antinuclear movement 1
Arms race 1