Experts highlight local African-American history landmarks


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Locals say the Iowa City area has African-American history to be proud of, but local minorities still face some discrimination.

On Thursday, the Senior Center hosted the Outside In program, part of a traveling exhibit funded by Humanities Iowa in celebration of Black History Month.

Dr. Hal Chase, a speaker from the Iowa Humanities Speakers Bureau, presented a documentary of important people and events in Iowa's African-American history, emphasizing the Johnson County area.

"Everybody in the room here has some story that is part of African-American history," he said. "African-American history in the United States is at least 50 percent white. With no whites, there [would be] no slave trade; no whites, no slavery; no whites, no white racism."

He went on to highlight notable African-Americans in Iowa City and the University of Iowa's history. For instance, in the 1970s Ted Wheeler was the first African-American track coach in the Big Ten.

Currier Residence Hall first became integrated in 1946, Chase said.

"The Iowa Federation of Colored Women's club bought a property and had a boarding house [for African-American women]," he said. "Open housing in UI dormitories followed in the next five years. African-American women got that job done."

As of the 2010 census, Johnson County was 86 percent white and just under 5 percent black, a 1.9 percent increase over 2000.

Iowa City resident James Hicks, who grew up in Gary, Ind., said he has lived in Iowa City since the 1990s and has found the city more accepting than his former places of residence.

"As an African- American, I've lived on the East Coast, the West Coast, all coasts. I've encountered less racism here than anywhere else in the nation," he said. "I lived in Chicago 10 years before I came here. I was stopped by officers routinely … [It was] just a normal thing."

But some speakers said the Johnson County community still needs to be more welcoming toward people in disadvantaged or minority populations.

"One man was talking [and said], 'It really makes me think back on my time and realize how much things have changed but also how much things still need to progress,' " said Meagan McCullum, education and outreach coordinator at the Johnson County Historical Society. "That's why it's an important story to tell. It's not over and done with. It's still something people are confronting today."

The Only One exhibit will be on display at the African-American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids until Dec. 31.

In today's issue:

comments powered by Disqus

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.