Remarkable Women Made Black History In Iowa

by mitzimsa on February 28, 2018

One Incredible Women of Black HistoryBlack History Photo

Mrs. Joeanne Cheatom

In Honor of Black History Month I would like to celebrate an African American History Maker of Des Moines Iowa, my Aunt.

As you read what she has done for the city of Des Moines you will see she played a role in how and why I have my perspective of life, living and people. She left me with …the ability to listen and have patients with people, know that you can learn from all, be knowledgeable enough to communicate with a drunk in the gutter and the person sitting in the top seat in the white house. To have compassion and be kind to people as well as lend a helping hand to one in need.  Last but not least My Gift of Gab, LOLL!

Fighting for Equality for all…not just the black people of Iowa

Mrs. Cheatom was often criticized for her outspokenness and desire for equality for all. In the late 1960’s Mrs. Cheatom found controversy when she befriended the young members of the Black Panther Party of Des Moines as they struggled for civil rights.
In 1968 Mrs. Cheatom organized the city’s first welfare rights organization. A year later with the help of the Black Panther Party, she established a breakfast program for children of low-income families.

In the fall of 1969 Mrs. Cheatom was charged with arson in a lumberyard fire and spent 14 days in jail. Throughout those years, Mrs. Cheatom remained the target of hate campaigns by the right-wing John Birch society, which handed out pamphlets criticizing her, and the work she did. At one point the FBI searched her home and ensured they keep track of her every move.

Always Giving a Helping Hand to the People of Iowa

In 1974 Mrs. Cheatom organized the Pre-Trial Support Program sponsored by the Des Moines Area Urban Mission Council of the United Methodist Church. That caused her to become once again, under public scrutiny. Under this program, Mrs. Cheatom won the release of persons awaiting trial on such charges as murder, robbery, and rape.

She made it her mission to secures pre-trail release for individuals who could not post bond. She helped these men and women find jobs, housing and aid for their families. Often they moved into her two-story house on Des Moines’ near north side while awaiting trial. Even though only two of the approximate 500 people she helped did not show up for court. The powers that be criticized her programs as being too soft on criminals.

Among Mrs. Cheatom’s proudest accomplishments is the co-founding of KUCB black radio station with Black Panther Walter Knox. The stationed focused on issues of the African American community and hosted talk shows by black journalist, and dealt deeply with Black history and community affairs. In it’s hay-day it was considered the “Black Voice” of Des Moines Iowa.Mrs. Cheatom served on the Polk County Health Services Board as well as on a citizen’s advisory committee for the Polk County Jail.

“The Mother of the civil rights movement in Des Moines, Iowa” Joeanne Cheatom stood as a beacon; “She stood for truth, never let up her struggle for equality – a warrior against racism in this community” – Charles Knox.  Des Moines showed Joanne Cheatom their apparition for her diligent service by remembering her with a Park dedicated in her name where many gather and enjoy!!!


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