State Historical Society of Iowa History for Lunch

Marvin Bergman's picture

Please join us at noon on Thursday, November 17, when Professors Lena M. Hill and Michael D. Hill make a presentation, “Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa during the Long Civil Rights” at the State Historical Society of Iowa, Centennial Building, 402 Iowa Avenue in Iowa City. The program is free and open to the public.


Between the 1930s and 1960s, the University of Iowa sought to assert its modernity, cosmopolitanism, and progressivism through an increased emphasis on the fine and performing arts and athletics. This enhancement coincided with a period when an increasing number of African American students arrived at the university, from both within and outside the state, seeking to take advantage of its relatively liberal racial relations and rising artistic prestige. The presence of accomplished African American students performing in musical concerts, participating in visual art exhibitions, acting on stage, publishing literature, and competing on sports fields forced white students, instructors, and administrators to confront their undeniable intellect and talent. Unlike the work completed in traditional academic units, these students’ contributions to the university community were highly visible and burst beyond the walls of their individual units and primary spheres of experience to reach a much larger audience on campus and in the city and nation beyond the university’s boundaries.


By examining the quieter collisions between Iowa’s polite midwestern progressivism and African American students’ determined ambition, Invisible Hawkeyes focuses attention on both local stories and their national implications. By looking at the University of Iowa and a smaller midwestern college town like Iowa City, this collection reveals how fraught moments of interracial collaboration, meritocratic advancement, and institutional insensitivity deepen our understanding of America’s painful conversion into a diverse republic committed to racial equality.


Lena M. Hill is Senior Associate to the President and an Associate Professor of English and African American studies at the University of Iowa. She is the author of Visualizing Blackness and the Creation of African American Literary Tradition and is the coauthor with Michael D. Hill of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: A Reference Guide. Michael D. Hill is an Associate Professor of English and African American studies at the University of Iowa. He is the author of The Ethics of Swagger: Prizewinning African American Novels, 1977–1993.


Take this opportunity to learn about the many celebrated African-Americans who attended the University of Iowa. Seated is limited. For more information call (319) 335-3911.