• Hometown: Antioch, IL
• Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Simon Balto- Assistant Professor, History and African American Studies
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date? BA History, BA Social Studies Education, Fall 2021
• Please describe your research: Working to challenge the myths that the civil rights movement was largely confined to the South and that men were uniformly the people most important in driving the movement forward, I study Black Iowa women’s activism during the civil rights era (which I define as 1945-1965). I explore not only how their activist work and the arguments they made were influenced by their gender, class, and positionality as Midwesterners, but also how they helped shape for the better the Iowa in which we all now live.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? As the events of this past year have shown in sharp relief, we are still struggling with many of the same racial inequities, in everything from policing to education, that civil rights activists in Iowa and across the country called attention to and proposed solutions to in the 1950s and 1960s. By understanding the roots of these problems and the ways that people have tried to address them in the past, we can better equip ourselves to develop and evaluate potential solutions to the social problems we are facing today. That being said, there are important ways in which the context we are living in today differs from that of the civil rights era, so we will need to couple these lessons from the past with a willingness to reimagine what our social, political, and economic lives can look like in the present, and develop innovative ideas if we are to truly work towards a more just future.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I worked on my first big research project, involving archival research, the first semester of my sophomore year. I began this research on Black Iowa women’s civil rights activism for my honors thesis the spring of my junior year.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? My research has helped me hone my reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. I have had to absorb, organize, and synthesize large amounts of information in order to craft a coherent argument and narrative, which has helped me in many of my classes. Talking through my ideas with faculty members and my peers has been invaluable in building these skills.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? After I graduate, I plan on teaching high school history for several years before potentially pursuing graduate school. My goal is to help my students analyze information with a critical eye and articulate their ideas through various media. I am looking forward to sharing my passion for history with my students and continuing to learn more myself.
• Does your research have connections to or implications for COVID-19? Please explain. COVID-19 has highlighted the racial inequities, in everything from health care to housing, that permeate the United States, as communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. These dynamics helped prime the activism that took place across the country after the murder of George Floyd. In a sense, the pandemic has helped show that many of the racial inequalities that I have researched and written about still exist, and also that the vibrant community of activists in Iowa are operating within a long and proud tradition of anti-racist Iowans that stretches back generations.
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