'STUDIES IN IOWA HISTORY'
The Negro In Iowa
Leola Nelson Bergmann
The participation of the Negro in the northern school system since the close of the first World War has increased rapidly on the student level, more slowly on the teacher level. From l876, when Yale granted the first Ph.D. to an American Negro, down to l943 almost four hundred doctoral or equivalent academic degrees were awarded to Negroes, the great majority of them since l930. Thirty-two out of this group received one or more of their academic degrees at an Iowa college or university. Twenty of these thirty-two were Ph.D. degrees, the first of which was granted by Iowa State College, Ames, in l933, to Nathaniel O. Calloway. Between l933 and l943 seven doctorates were awarded by that institution to Negro students. In l935 the State University of Iowa granted its first doctorate to a Negro student, Cyril F. Atkin. By l943 twelve Negroes had received Ph.D. degrees from the University. In l94l Lulu Merle Johnson became the first Negro woman to be granted the doctorate from the State University and is the first in the United States to have received that degree in the field of history. Since l94l she has served as an associate professor in the history departments of Talladega College, West Virginia State College, and at Cheney College in Pennsylvania, where she is also serving as dean of women. Oscar Fuller, who received his Ph.D. degree from the State University of Iowa in l942, was the first Negro in the United States to be granted that degree in the field of music.
At the time Harry W. Greene made his study of Negroes holding Ph.D. degrees, fifteen out of the twenty Negroes who received Ph.D. degrees in Iowa were on the faculties of Negro colleges and universities, one was a principal of a public school in North Carolina, and one was a medical student. The employment of three was not listed.
All Iowa colleges, both private and State-supported, are open to Negro students. Although it is impossible because of inadequate records to make an accurate count of the number of Negro graduates, registrars' estimates indicate that at least five hundred have one or more degrees from Iowa institutions of higher learning. Approximately l50 were on the campuses of Iowa colleges and universities during the second semester of the l946-l947 academic year. Of the eighty-six who were attending the State University only twenty-six were from Iowa.
Negro students have not always been admitted to University-owned dormitories, but in recent years this policy has been changed, and during the second semester of l946-l947 twenty-three colored students lived in University dormitories. For several years a house for colored women students has been maintained in Iowa City by the Iowa Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, more recently by the Iowa Association for Negro Students. Most of the Negro students at the State University, however, live in private homes.
As far as can be ascertained from the records, Alexander Clark, Jr., was the first Negro to enter the University of Iowa and the first to be awarded a degree, the LL. B. in l879. Since that day approximately three hundred Negro students have received degrees from the University of Iowa. The first degree in Liberal Arts granted to a Negro went to S. Joe Brown in l898. During his senior year, Brown was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the first Negro, it is believed, to have received this honor west of the Mississippi. In l90l Brown was granted his LL. B. degree, and in l902 his M.A. from the University, again, as far as can be ascertained, being the first Negro student to receive an advanced degree from the institution. During this early period of l900's Brown was considered one of the seven or eight most important Negro lawyers in America. He has been active in the affairs of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and for ten years, l920-l930, he was the only Negro member of the Executive Committee of the Polk County Council of Religious Education. When the Council of Churches of the Des Moines Area was organized in l930, he was elected one of the five directors at large, the only Negro serving in this capacity.
In l906 he was a candidate for Judge of the Polk County District Court and in l9l0 a candidate for councilman at large for the city of Des Moines. In l928 he was among eight candidates nominated in the primaries for the office of Judge of the Des Moines Municipal Court. Though defeated in the elections, he received the support of hundreds of voters outside his racial group. In l9l9 Brown was instrumental in the organization of the Crocker Street Branch (Negro) of the Des Moines Y.M.C.A., and in l924 assisted in the organization of the Des Moines Interracial Commission on which he has served in several capacities. In l925 he was a delegate to the first National Interracial Conference held in Cincinnati.
Throughout his active career in behalf of his race, Brown has been assisted by his wife, Sue M. Brown. In l906 she founded the Intellectual Improvement Club for Negroes in Des Moines; in l9l4 the Mary B. Talbert Club. From l9l5 to l9l7 she served as the president of the Iowa State Federation of Colored women's Clubs, and since l92l has been a life trustee of the national Association of colored women. She was the founder of the Des Moines League of Colored Women Voters, and the first vice president of the National League of Republican Colored Women. From l925 to l927 she was president of the N.A.A.C.P.
She has been a trustee of Monrovia College and Industrial Training School in Liberia and chairman of the board of trustees of the Iowa Federation home for colored women students at the State University. Her 'History of the Order of the Eastern Star Among Colored People'
was published in l925.
To Be Continued .........................................................
Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert
January 18, 2004
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