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Dubuque Announces Project to Uncover Black Heritage

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

Roots to Branches Genealogy is thrilled to be named part of the team on the project to uncover Dubuque's Black Heritage.

City Announces Team to Help Uncover Dubuque's Black Heritage

CONTACT: Chris Happ Olson, Assistant Planner 563-589-4387,

Feb. 25, 2022 -- For Immediate Release DUBUQUE, Iowa – The City of Dubuque Historic Preservation Commission is undertaking a Black Heritage Survey, a year-long project discovering the history related to families, people, events, trends and places of Black Dubuquers from 1830-1980. The City of Dubuque has contracted with Wapsi Valley Archaeology to reach out to families both in Dubuque and those that previously lived here, to find the stories of Dubuque residents over time. One of the products of the project includes an online storymap which allows the public to explore the places, people, events, and findings of the research. Wapsi Valley Archaeology is based in Anamosa, Iowa, and the firm has completed over 1,200 historic, architectural, and archaeological regional investigations since 2001. Nurit Finn is Wapsi’s president and will serve as project manager. The firm brings two important subcontractors to the table, both experts in Iowa’s Black heritage:

  • Pearson Consulting, based in Waterloo, Iowa, is a historic resource development firm that specializes in advocacy and education about African American cultural heritage. Under the leadership of Charles Pearson, the firm has been involved in creating inventories of buildings and open spaces important to Iowa African American history.

  • Roots to Branches Genealogy, based in Windsor Heights, Iowa, specializes in genealogy research, with an emphasis on African American history and forensic genealogy. Founded by professional genealogist Ricki King, the firm has been involved in a number of research projects in Iowa.

Additionally, the City of Dubuque has two unique local partnerships that will bring expertise and more research to the project.

  • “African American History” is a University of Dubuque course taught by Associate Professor of History Brian Hallstoos. Students in the course will conduct and contribute research of the nineteenth century city directories and the Telegraph Herald in order to identify individuals and follow families over time. They will assist with research in the first half of the twentieth century, including issues related to housing.

  • “The Civil Rights Movement” is a Loras College course taught by Professor of History Kristin Anderson-Bricker This course will focus on housing discrimination in the twentieth century America to better understand housing patterns in Dubuque and to provide context for the experience of Black Dubuquers. Students in the course will search directory and census records to identify Black families and to begin to discover details about their lives in this community.

In addition to contributing their time in service to the city, members of both classes will record their research discoveries on a database designed to collect the stories of Black Dubuquers in one place. The majority of research of the project is expected to be completed over the next 12 months. The report will be completed in the first half of 2023, along with the online GIS storymap. Questions about the project can be directed to Chris Happ Olson, project coordinator, at 563-589-4387 and This project is supported in part by the State Historical Society of Iowa, Historical Resource Development Program.

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