Minnie London: Teaching in a Mining Town

Minnie London, one of Iowa's first African-American schoolteachers, was born Minnie Belle Robinson in Missouri in 1868. She became the first African-American student to graduate from the school of education at the University of Iowa in 1890.

Coal Mining Teacher

In the spring of 1891, 23-year-old London arrived in Muchakinock, a coal mining camp in southern Iowa where she and her new husband, William Henry London, settled into married life. William went to work in the mines. The work was hard and the days long.

By 1900 the mining company moved their operations from Muchakinock to Monroe County, where the mining community of Buxton was established. Believing that teaching "was the only thing that a Negro girl could ever do," London taught school in Buxton for the coal miners' children.

For more than 20 years, she taught school and was a principal in Buxton and Haydock, another mining town. After the mines dried up in Haydock, London moved to Waterloo where she lived with her daughter. In 1940 London wrote about her life in Iowa's coal mining communities.

Minnie Remembers

Her account, "As I Remember," was published in the Iowa Observer, an African-American Iowa newspaper. London's daughter, Vaeletta Fields, recalled that her mother "had high aspirations for her children's education and success." When a friend offered to send Vaeletta to business college, London said she did not want to be indebted to anyone. With her teacher's salary, London helped send her children, Vaeletta and Herbert, to the University of Iowa.

Minnie London is remembered best for her love and support of education for all of Iowa's children.

Adapted from original article by Susan Fletcher, The Goldfinch 16, No. 4 (Summer 1995). Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa.
© State Historical Society of Iowa

 

 


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