IWF Celebrates Black History in Iowa: Minnie Robinson London

We want to thank the African American Museum of Iowa for providing these African American women who made an impact in Iowa.

Minnie Belle Robinson was born in 1862, in Lexington, Missouri. In 1891, 23 year old Minnie arrived in Muchakinock, Iowa with her sister, to teach grammar school. She also married miner turned businessman William Henry London that same year. London taught at the 5th street and 11th street elementary schools in Muchakinock. After moving to Buxton in 1900, London became principal of School no. 2 and eventually became superintendent of Monroe County. She was also an active member of the Iowa State Teachers Association.

She and her family moved onto Haydock in 1919 and stayed until it closed. London was part of a unique group of teachers who showed that women, and more specifically black women, possessed the credentials and intellectualism to defy white stereotypes. London was able to send both her children, Hubert and Vaeletta, to the University of Iowa. Hubert received an MD and Vaeletta a degree in English. Vaeletta recalled that her mother “had high aspirations for her children’s education and success.” When a friend [George H. Woodson] offered to send Vaeletta to business college, London declined saying that she did not want to be indebted to anyone.

The Londons moved to Des Moines in 1927 to be near their son. In 1939, after the death of both her husband and son, Minnie moved to Waterloo where her daughter had settled. London wrote on her over 20-year career as a teacher and her memories of the African American communities of Buxton and Muchakinock in 1940, an account was published in the Iowa Observer newspaper.

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The African American Museum’s current temporary exhibit, Unwavering: 21st Century Activism allows audiences to engage with contemporary social movements from Black Lives Matter to the Me Too movement. Through objects, stories, and hands-on activities, you can explore the stories of groups who continue to bring to light the struggle for Black civil rights and equality that began centuries ago. Within this exhibit you can develop an understanding of the past and present social movements involving the Black community, engage in the meaning of protest and social justice in the modern era, and become empowered to work for change within your own community.