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IWA Diversity & Social Justice Collections: African American Life and History

African American Life and History

The African American Life and History section of this guide brings together the nearly 60 collections for African American women, families, and organizations held at the Iowa Women’s Archives. Also included are more general collections which contain material relevant to the study of Black history. These materials speak to the breadth and diversity of the African American experience in Iowa, from the settlement of former slaves in the 1850s to the first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. from the State University of Iowa (now University of Iowa) in 1941 (Lulu Merle Johnson) to contemporary Black artists and writers like Jean Berry and Cherry Muhanji. Civil rights, education, business and professional life, rich family histories, the arts, and community life are just a few of the topics represented.

These collections are organized by type of material -- click on the sub-tab to see the list for:

  • Personal papers of individuals and families
  • Records of clubs and organizations
  • Oral histories
  • Selected other collections with relevant material on African American history and life

What Will You Find Here?

Each collection is linked to its finding aid in ArchivesSpace. When some or all of a collection's content is available in the Iowa Digital Library, you will also find a link directly to that material. If you just want to see what is available digitally, skip over to the Digital Resources tab, where you will find a list of all featured collections with material in the IDL. 

Esther Walls papers

Esther Walls with International Book Year and reading promotion posters, 1972. 

YWCA of Greater Des Moines records

Girls' Dance Team, Blue Triangle Branch of the YWCA of Des Moines, Des Moines, Iowa, March 25, 1941

Women Against Racism records

Mail order form for the classic Black feminist text, All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, But Some of Us are Brave (1982)

Arlene Morris papers

Arlene Roberts Morris posed with bicycle, Iowa City, Iowa?, 1946. This image appeared on the cover of the April 1946 issue of Eyes magazine.