Adah Hyde Johnson (Class of 1912) described her graduation from The University of Iowa as “one of the great dreams” of her father, a successful businessman who had grown up under slavery. Helping to integrate Currier Hall in 1946 was the first step of Virginia Harper’s (Class of 1948) lifelong career as a civil rights activist. The election of Dora Martin Berry (Class of 1957, pictured on the left from the Saturday Evening Post) as the UI’s campus queen of 1955 attracted national press coverage as an example of racial tolerance, yet she was barred from carrying out the traditional honors and duties of her title.
The stories of these women and many others are featured in a new digital collection from the UI Libraries: African American Women Students at The University of Iowa, 1910-1960, available online at http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/aaws
This collection features 150 digitized artifacts, including photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, and oral history audio clips, drawn from the holdings of the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Archives, the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa, and the State Historical Society of Iowa. The project was led by Shawn Averkamp, a Fellow in the School of Library and Information Science’s Digital Libraries Program, and coordinated by the UI’s Digital Library Services department.
“I was most impressed by the African American Women’s archive website,” says Courtney Parker, Recruitment Chair of the Black Student Union. “The collection of data in one convenient place about the contributions of black women to Iowa’s rich history is intriguing and moving. I truly appreciate the hard work that goes into such projects, as it justifiably honors and commemorates the everyday black women, college-age women in America such as myself, who have (until now) anonymously participated in the gratifying struggle of leaving their mark in the history books. It makes me proud to look upon the faces of and read the stories about women who have made a difference for women like me.”
The goal of the project was to compile and increase access to primary source materials from a variety of archival collections, thereby helping to piece together the history of African American students at the UI. This history has been under-documented since African Americans were often excluded from such mainstream student publications as the yearbook and The Daily Iowan.
“The collective experience of African American women students at UI is a rich one that must be preserved so that future generations will remember the struggles and joys of those times,” said David McCartney, University Archivist. “The online collection helps us understand that experience more deeply and from a variety of individual perspectives.”
The collection is the latest addition to the Iowa Digital Library — http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu – which contains more than 95,000 digital objects (photographs, maps, sound recordings and documents) from libraries and archives at UI and their partnering institutions. The Iowa Digital Library also includes faculty research collections and bibliographic tools.