Ice cream social honors ‘Rosa Parks of Iowa’

An ice cream social at Fort Dodge city square Monday celebrated diversity and honored the life of Edna Griffin.

According to Jamie Anderson, Webster County Cultural Diversity team chair, Griffin is a figure worthy of recognition.

“Edna Griffin is also known as the Rosa Parks of Iowa,” Anderson said. “She is a significant person in history not a lot of people know about.”

On July 7, 1948, Griffin sat at the lunch counter of Katz Drug Store in Des Moines with two friends and her young daughter to buy ice cream.

Store manager Maurice Katz, though, denied them service, stating that, per store policy, “we don’t serve coloreds.”

Griffin organized sit-ins and picketed the store while charges were filed against Katz for racial discrimination, a charge he’d received three times prior. Katz was found guilty of violating Iowa’s civil rights law for denying Griffin service and fined $50. The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the conviction in 1949.

“And she was awarded $1 in damages, which isn’t much,” Anderson said. “She’s a significant person in history we should celebrate and remember.”

For the day, Webster County Cultural Diversity team partnered with Fort Dodge Young Professionals to give ice cream to children and encourage celebrating diversity.

“Knowing the history and what background makes up each individual is important to celebrate,” Anderson said.

The event, in its sixth year, allows Anderson to see the smiling faces of Fort Dodge children as they receive a cone.

“It’s wonderful. Especially since it’s going to be a nice summer day, and this is exactly what happened in 1948,” she said. “It was a hot summer day in July when Edna Griffin went into the drug store just to cool off with some ice cream, and I hope that they take the information we have here today, and the parents will share it with their kids if they’re not able to read. And they can realize the importance of not treating people differently, because they look different.”

Children, Anderson said, are not only receptive of the message of diversity, but many already carry that message with them.

“They already are very accepting of people who are different,” she said. “A lot of stereotypes are learned. I think kids naturally are very welcoming, and like to interact with others who are different with them.”

It is Anderson and the team’s hope that the children embrace and even champion diversity.

“I’m hoping they realize that if they do see someone else treating a person differently because of their color, that’s not acceptable,” she said. “And maybe they can step up and be one of the people who can make a positive difference in the future.”