History teaches valuable lessons, if we allow it

  • Born and raised in Ames, Iowa, Laura Martin Luckert retired from a career in corporate communications and currently lives in Venice, Florida.

During this year’s Farmaggedon football game played in Ames, Iowa, between Kansas State University and Iowa State University, ESPN announcers paused during a break in the action to give a brief shout out to the man whose Jack Trice Stadium is named after. Solemnly, but without any details about the history of the college athlete, they agreed that Jack Trice was an inspiration.

From the perspective of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, it must have been a relief that sports announcers hadn’t taken this “woke” route she calls critical race theory, which would have them tell the story of an African-American player who was racially targeted by a Minnesota team and died a day later from injuries.

Because it would force Reynolds to toe the line she drew when she signed into law last year a bill she says bans the teaching of critical race theory.

“I pride myself…on promoting learning, not discriminatory indoctrination,” Reynolds said in a statement at the time.

What we can learn from Jack Trice’s legacy is that while it’s easy for politicians like Reynolds to toss around pejoratives like “discriminatory indoctrination”, it’s much harder, but necessary, to confront , to teach, to consider factual history .

The only reason Jack Trice was in Minnesota in the first place on October 6, 1923 to play a football game was because Minnesota offered a venue when the Missouri Valley Conference refused to allow its schools to play a team with a black player on his roster.

A letter from the University of Missouri athletic director was sent to Dean SW Beyer of Iowa State that week with the reminder that “we (the University of Missouri) cannot allow a man of color on any team with which we play”.

Racism remained a dominant theme in Jack Trice’s story even after his death. When a group of students in 1975 proposed that the new ISU football stadium be named after Jack Trice, school administrators stalled.

After:An Unforgettable Legacy: Inside the Decades-Long Battle for the Jack Trice Stadium Name

Despite significant pressure from students; Personal; and others, including Senator Hubert Humphrey, actor Paul Newman and popular Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul, it would take an entire generation, 22 years, before the story of Jack Trice would be commemorated.

Finally, on August 30, 1997, university president Martin Jischke officially opened “Jack Trice Stadium,” making Iowa State University the first Division I school in the nation to name a stadium after an African-American athlete.

In 1975 when the new ISU football stadium opened south of Ames, but long before it was called Jack Trice Stadium, I graduated from Ames High School. Unfortunately, my high school education didn’t include history lessons on the Tulsa Race Riot or the Trail of Tears. I also didn’t learn the story of Jack Trice, which happened just a mile from my school.

Indeed, it was decades later, while watching an Iowa State football game on television, that I took note and looked up the name of the venue: Jack Trice Stadium. I first read the story of a young college athlete who wasn’t even allowed to live on campus with his teammates because he was black.

Politicians like Reynolds do not save young people from “discriminatory indoctrination”. They contribute to continued ignorance and a whitewashed narrative that goes hand in hand with other systemic racist tropes like “replacement theory.”

As Iowa State University begins to embark on its plans to honor Jack Trice by marking 100 years since his death, I can only hope that his story, his story, will be taught honestly without obfuscation in the classrooms of the Iowa and the rest of the country, and that the lessons of diversity, inclusion and equality will be learned by many.

Laura Luckert

Born and raised in Ames, Iowa, Laura Martin Luckert retired from a career in corporate communications and currently lives in Venice, Florida.

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