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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 12, 2008

UI Libraries' new digital collection features African-American women

Adah Hyde Johnson described her graduation from the University of Iowa in 1912 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 lifelong career as a civil rights activist. The election of Dora Martin Berry 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

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.

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 the UI is a rich one that must be preserved so that future generations will remember the struggles and joys of those times," David McCartney, university archivist, said. "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 -- -- which contains more than 95,000 digital objects  including photographs, maps, sound recordings and documents from libraries and archives at the UI and their partnering institutions. The Iowa Digital Library also includes faculty research collections and bibliographic tools.


STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Kristi Bontrager, University of Iowa Libraries, 319-335-5960,; George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012,