Invisible Hawkeyes; African Americans at the University of Iowa During the Long Civil Rights Era

Oct 19, 2016

Between the 1930s and the 1960s, northern universities became a destination for black students from the south looking for the kinds of opportunities they didn't have access to back home.  The process of integrating Iowa's public universities was long and slow.  Black athletes and artists were among the first students to cross the academic color line in Iowa City.   This hour, we'll hear about a new book that tells the stories of many of the black students who were among the first to study at the University of Iowa.

The book is "Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa During the Long Civil Rights Era." (University of Iowa Press).  The editors of the book are Lena and Michael Hill, both professors of English and African American Students at the UI.  

Charity begins the program speaking with Dora Martin Berry, who traveled from Houston to Iowa City during the summer of 1955.  She came to study theater at the UI.  In addition to her academic pursuits, Berry also became the first black student to win the Miss State University of Iowa contest.   But as listeners learned, after winning the award the University for all intents and purposes failed to acknowledge her award and administrators at the time would not even speak to her. 

When asked what current UI students could take away from the stories in the book in light of racial discrimination on every campus, co-author Lena Hill said: "We can be inspired by the fact that students often make strides together, collaborating together, and I mean both students black and white, moving forward before the administration does. I think the election of Dora tells us that in 1955, even though it was not officially acknowledged, the students were ahead of the institution."