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Washington keeps black history alive in FD

She’s completed a compiled update of achievement and changes

April 29, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

A fourth revision of Charlene Washington's book, "Black History of Fort Dodge: Moving On from the Past, Focusing on the Future," is available at the Fort Dodge Public Library.

The book features stories of achievements by African-Americans, primarily in the Fort Dodge area. It was first released in 1999, and then updated in 2000 and 2003.

Washington said it was important for her book to keep up with the times, so that young people could see what was happening in the black community.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Charlene Washington looks at an article from The Messenger in her newly updated book, “Black History of Fort Dodge: Moving On from the Past, Focusing on the Future,” which is available at the Fort Dodge Public Library.

"Every few years, there are new things happening - like we've got this new black president," Washington said. "The new generation needs to keep informed about what has gone on, and how far we've come. Every time they read something, they can see we've gotten a little farther and farther."

New information includes the accounts of a pet salon and a Dairy Queen owned by blacks. Stories also feature the Miss Black Iowa Pageant, the Black History Month Expo and the 2006 Children's Day celebration.

"(Children's Day) is on the calendar in the south," Washington said. "Here you see Mother's Day and Father's Day, but in the south you see Children's Day. We've always had Children's Day."

She's pushed for it, and now the Second Baptist Church celebrates Children's Day every year on the second Sunday in June, she said. The church has a program, special speakers, a meal and recognition of the children who have accomplished something over the year, she said.

Her book is the size of a newspaper page and contains newspaper articles from the area, many of them from The Messenger. It is available in the Webster County materials area of the reference section. The book will remain at the library. It is not available for checkout.

"The reason I do the book every so often is I want every generation to know Fort Dodge is a good place to live," she said. "There's value here, and there successful people here. It's a good place to raise your children."

Washington brought a passion for black history with her back in 1964, when she moved to Fort Dodge from Mississippi.

"Nobody had heard of black history," she said. "When I asked if they studied black history here, they told me there was no such thing. I tried to interview some of the older people and they told me, 'Hey, you let bygones be bygones'."

Washington was once coordinator of the Fort Dodge Ethnic School and taught at the school before that.

"When I came here, we had this black school that was all for the blacks. They closed that black school, and sent our kids to six receiving schools. And once they intermingled with the whites, they became friends. Then the white people know who black people are; they know that we're intelligent," she said.

Washington has seen huge changes in the 46 years she lived in Fort Dodge.

"We have accomplished a lot in our black community since the 1960s," she said. "Some of our goals have been met.

"My main concern is to keep the newer generation informed of what is going on today, and look back to see where we've come from. I want them to just say, 'I am proud of how far we've come.'"

She also offered some advice.

"Be all you can be. Do all you can do. Do the best job you can do. The door of success is open, so just walk on in or push the door down to get in."

Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or



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