Love and War; FBI Case for Edna Griffin FINAL

Love and War

By: Lizzy Salmon

During the time of the 1950s, many civil rights movements were going on. Edna Griffin was a huge civil rights activist. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was the biggest influence for the civil rights movement, but they compared Ms. Griffin to Rosa Park (N.A., para 1). Many people for example in Topeka were upset about their children taking buses to an all black school when a school as right around the corner. People started to sue the school boards for situations like this. The women mentioned in this case, Edna Griffin, was known as the “Rosa Parks” of her town. She was widely known for her court case State of Iowa vs. Kartz, which was a drug store in Des Moines, Iowa ( N.A., para 1-2). Edna was a college graduate who was preparing to be a school teacher. She moved with her husband Stanley to Des Moines for his job where they later had three children. This document was created in order to answer the question, Was Edna Griffin involved with communism because of the power she had in Des Moines at the time.

Edna was downtown with her family and children were ordering ice cream. The waitress came up and took all of their orders, but was later told she could not serve them because of their color. Edna launched a campaign later on to make Katz serve all people, by hosting pickets, boycotts, and sit-ins. Griffin won her case and the owner of Katz was fined $50. Because of her efforts, all races were served in Iowa. Edna founded CORE in Iowa and was elected the first president (Congress for Racial Equality). She was very involved with the local African American newspaper and continued her efforts; even traveling to Nebraska at the age of 75 to stop a nuclear war. Edna died in 2000, the mayor of Des Moines dedicated May 15 as the Edna Griffin day and named the former Katz building, the Edna Griffin building (Hernandez, para 5).

Furthermore, many people, not just Edna Griffin and her family, were not okay with being treated as less than a human being, but were too scared to stand up for themselves. Edna was not only recognized in Iowa, but she was known around the entire United States for all her efforts in the civil rights movements. She did so much for the Des Moines African American society as well as all of the people across America who heard her story and made a difference in their own towns (N.A., para 4).

Much of this document tells about a mysterious man named Otto whose car has been seen many places around Des Moines (Hernandez, para 3). The FBI has written down many different addresses. I think what the FBI case writer was most trying to get across was how many times this car had been seen and how this man Otto’s car is linked to something with Edna Griffin. Otto, a man I believe lives in Des Moines has no outside information going deeper into his connection with Griffin.

This document had a purpose. I believe the police were going after her in hopes that they would either stop her from making a huge impact on civil rights for all people, or she would be convicted as a communist. “In 1951, the head of the FBI assured Congress that his organization was ready to arrest 14,000 dangerous Communists in the event of war with the Soviet Union. A foundation offered $100,000 to support research in creating a device for detecting traitors” (Digital History ID 3415, para 4). Edna Griffin was a very public figure, so many people were thought she was great, but others of course would say she was wrong in her ideas and she should not be sparking such debate.

During the time of Edna Griffin, anticommunism was a big part of American life. Senator Joseph Mccarthy rose to power during this time period. President Truman was ordering background checks on everyone working in the government, as well as people who were assumed to be communist because they spoke out against the common belief (Independence Hall Association, para 5). My prediction is Edna Griffin was under FBI investigation due to her political and social power in not only Des Moines, but also America as a whole. People respected and looked up to her. She helped change racial equality for all people.

In the end, the FBI filed gave specific details of suspicious activity involving a man named Otto. We can conclude that the government was making claims because Edna Griffin was such a public figure in the United States. People referred to her as the “Rosa Parks of Iowa.” She has such a powerful influence, and without her people may not have gotten the rights they deserved. Even with the court case, she was determined to fight for the rights of every American citizen, no matter what race. She is a women of dignity and she was well-deserving of all the awards given to her throughout the United States.


Hernandez, E. (2007). Edna Griffin (1909-2000). Retrieved September 30, 2015, from l

Griffin E. (1998). Christine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice.

Digital History ID 3415, (2014). Anti-Communism During the Early 1950s,

N.A., (2015). Edna Griffin; The Rosa Parks of Iowa,

N.A., (2015). Congress for Racial Equality

Independence Hall Association, (2008). 53a McCarthyism,

Archives Alive Presentation