A Black Utopia in the Heartland, An Expanded Edition

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270 pages, 36 photos, 3 maps
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“[Buxton] is a detailed and informative study of a significant event in American industrial relations. Richly documented and lucidly presented, it illustrates the power that employers in this country historically wielded to shape the social life of workers.”—Choice

“This interdisciplinary study combines documentary materials with oral history to provide a vivid descriptive picture of Buxton. . . . The authors have provided an excellent work demonstrating the use of documentary evidence and personal interviews to reconstruct a picture of a community of the past . . . of considerable value, particularly, for the areas of race relations and community studies.”—Contemporary Sociology

Buxton recreates in loving and respectful detail an extraordinary coal-mining community that illuminates by its uniqueness certain aspects of Afro-American history. In so doing it captures both the racial pride and harmony that the community fostered and that its former residents, predominantly from the middle class, remember.”—Annals of Iowa

From 1900 until the early 1920s, an unusual community existed in America's heartland: Buxton, Iowa. Originally established by the Consolidation Coal Company, Buxton was the largest unincorporated coal mining community in Iowa. What made Buxton unique, however, is the fact that the majority of its 5,000 residents were African Americans—a highly unusual racial composition for a state which was over 90 percent white. At a time when both southern and northern blacks were disadvantaged and oppressed, blacks in Buxton enjoyed true racial integration—steady employment, above-average wages, decent housing, and minimal discrimination. For such reasons, Buxton was commonly known as “the black man's utopia in Iowa.”

Containing documentary evidence—including newspapers, census records, photographs, and state mining reports—along with interviews of 75 former residents, Buxton: Work and Racial Equality in a Coal Mining Community (originally published in 1987 and winner of the 1988 Benjamin Shambaugh Award) explored the Buxton experience from a variety of perspectives. The authors—an American historian, a family sociologist, and a race relations sociologist—provided a truly interdisciplinary history of one Iowa's most unique communities.

Now, eighty years after the town's demise and fifteen years after Buxton's original publication, the history of this Iowa town remains a compelling story that continues to capture people's imaginations. In Buxton: A Black Utopia in the Heartland, the authors offer further reflections upon their original study and the many former Buxton residents who shared their memories. In the new essay, “A Buxton Perspective,” issues such as social class and the town's continuing legacy are addressed. The voices captured in Buxton, although recorded over twenty years ago, still resonate with exuberance, affection, and poignancy; this expanded edition will bring their amazing stories back to the forefront of Iowa and American history.