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Black History Month at UIU

Black History Month is dedicated to recognizing the role of Black Americans in U.S. history: celebrating their achievements, contributions, and rich culture through a variety of engaging and educational programs.

In 1926 the second week of February was observed as “Negro History Week.” That week was chosen because within it fell the birthdays of former President Abraham Lincoln and prominent abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglas. In the late 1960’s the celebration expanded, thanks in large part to the Civil Rights Movement, to include the entire month of February.

UIU alum Nelson Evans came back to campus to speak at a previous BHM event. Click to Read More!

Together, the Multicultural Subcommittee, a subcommittee to the IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) Committee, and the newly formed Student Diversity Union, worked to bring both virtual and in-person opportunities to celebrate Black History Month to Upper Iowa University. For updates on the schedule of events and available resources please continue to revisit this page.

In addition, visit daily for the inspiring quote of the day. Quotes from Black leaders from throughout American history were selected to share throughout the month.

Black History Month Quote of the Day


Scheduled Events (all times CST)

Volunteer Reading: Wednesday, February 7th

Members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) will read to children at the local daycare and preschool school in Fayette as well as in West Union and the elementary school in West Union. Books will revolve around the importance of inclusion and the value of diversity.

February 19 at 6pm via FB Live: Alumni Speaker Series with Bill Proctor'96

Bill Proctor ’96

Biology, Fayette Campus Alum

Monday, February 19th @ 6pm – Virtual, Facebook Live

“Real Talk”

Bill Proctor is an 1996 alum from the Fayette campus and serves as an educator, administrator, coach, mentor, and commentator, among many other roles. While completing his biology degree at UIU, he was a student athlete in football and basketball and went on to teach biology, chemistry, and physics for 13 years at the high school level before switching to physical education. He was instrumental in the creation and success of the first mentoring program at Des Moines Public Schools called Brother2Brother. While doing so, also opened several local businesses around Des Moines to generate additional revenue. He now serves as the Brother2Brother District Coordinator for Des Moines Public Schools and the Director of Player Development for Sports Plex West, a training facility for basketball players all while continuing to teach physical education at McCombs Middle School. His goal in life is to use his knowledge, experience, and resources to move others forward towards the road to success in whatever capacity he can.


For more information on the Alumni Speaker Series, visit

Fayette & UIU History

Learn more about Fayette and Iowa Black History

Below we provide a brief review of early Fayette and Iowa Black history. In addition, to the right, in “Learn More”, you can learn more about the first black woman to graduate UIU and the family origin of Fayette, Iowa’s Watermelon Days.

1851:            Iowa is the 3rd state to allow interracial marriage.

1852:            Fayette County: An area known as ‘the colored settlement’ was established between Fayette and West Union.  Black and mulatto (mixed) families moved from Illinois to the new farming community north of Fayette.  They built their own school house, and several students continued their education at Upper Iowa University with some becoming excellent teachers.

1857:            Upper Iowa University opens January 7 as an interracial and co-educational institution.  Two years earlier the University of Iowa offered their first classes to both men as women, but it was not interracial .

1857:            Iowa’s Constitution was ratified. After much debate it was decided that ‘Negroes should have the right to provide testimony in court’ and ‘Negroes should have the right of suffrage (the right to vote)’

1861-1865    Civil War.  All Upper Iowa University male students volunteer to fight in Iowa Regiments for the Union Army.[1]

1879:            Upper Iowa University admits Susan Angeline Collins, UIU’s first female African American student.  Others soon followed, and there was likely continuous enrollment of students of African American descent since 1879.

1969:            The Brotherhood was formed at Upper Iowa University ‘to improve relationships between blacks and whites on campus.’ By 1983 this purpose had changed to ‘participate in worthy undertakings for the improvement of all ethnic and minority groups on campus and in the community.’ Alpha Nu Omega fraternity grew out of the Brotherhood.

Click here to learn more about African Americans in Fayette and at Upper Iowa University up to the early 1900s (UIU Library Archive Site)

[1] Not all students actually fought.  One student dropped out when his young wife requested it, and others were not found to be physically fit.

Resources to Learn More & Engage

Black Artists + Designers Guild

This nonprofit, created by Malene Barnett, was created to carve out space for Black design talent, creating opportunities for our members to thrive and reaching out to industry allies to support the great work of visionary Black artists and designers. BADG is building a more equitable and inclusive creative culture by advancing a community of independent Black makers in creative industries.

Black Culinary History

Black Culinary History was started to preserve and pay homage to the collective Black culinary heritage. “Black people from all over the African diaspora have come here, by force and by choice, since the birth of this nation and literally built what we call American cuisine. There are amazing, diverse, and talented Black food folks who are brilliant writers, historians, chefs, educators, farmers, winemakers, mixologists, and activists. This site endeavors to showcase all of these facets …”

Black Histories, Black Futures

Learn about defining moments in the past and present, and the future of the Black experience in the United States. From videos, stories and the arts, this site provides many ways to explore and learn more:

Black Lives Matter

The official #BlackLivesMatter Global Network builds power to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people across the globe:

24/7 Black Leadership Advancement Consortium

24/7 BLAC seeks to advance economic equity and vitality for Black communities. Located in Waterloo, Iowa, this non-profit’s objective is “To create access through education, employment opportunities and participation in programs that are centered in blackness and impact the ability to generate wealth, advance professionally, and leverage talent in entrepreneurship and business.”

Black Mental Health Alliance

An organization that connects individuals with therapists and provides professional training:

Black Youth Project

The Black Youth Project is a platform that highlights the voices and ideas of Black millennials. Through knowledge, voice, and action, the organization works to empower and uplift the lived experiences of young Black Americans today.

BEAM – Black Emotional And Mental Health Collective

BEAM is a national training, movement building and grant-making organization dedicated to the healing, wellness and liberation of Black and marginalized communities.

Civil Rights Digital Library

The Civil Rights Digital Library promotes an enhanced understanding of the Movement by helping users discover primary sources and other educational materials from libraries, archives, museums, public broadcasters, and others on a national scale.

Civil Rights Trail

Learn more about the U.S. Civil Rights Trail in this interactive map. Just choose your state and go on a Civil Rights Trail tour:

Explore the Greenwood district of Tulsa Oklahoma

The Tulsa Massacre of 1921 is among the worst racial terror attacks in the nation’s history — as well as the government’s culpability. What happened was deliberately hidden in history but The New York Times pieced together archival maps and photographs, with guidance from historians, to construct a 3-D model of the Greenwood neighborhood – known as America’s Black Wall Street – as it was before the destruction: Here you can read about thriving 100 block Greenwood district of Tulsa Oklahoma, explore the photos and interactive map and learn about the massacre that ended it all.

Inclusive Cultural University

Based out of Des Moines, Iowa, this non-profit’s mission is “To empower each person with the consciousness of the part they play to promote an inclusive, safe, and equitable society.” ICU works with schools, corporations and organizations to create “safe zones”; a space that generates conscious thinking into positive actions.

National Museum of African American History & Culture

An interactive, multifaceted educational space dedicated to helping visitors connect and engage with African American history and culture in ways that expand perspectives, spark curiosity and creativity, and increase knowledge. Explore the exhibit virtually:


An organization that works to disrupt inequality, dismantle racism, and accelerate change in key areas including criminal justice, health care, education, climate, and the economy.

NAMI’s Sharing Hope Program

Sharing Hope is a three-part video series that explores the journey of mental wellness in Black communities through dialogue, storytelling and a guided discussion.

National Urban League

The National Urban League is a historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization with 90 affiliates serving 300 communities, providing direct services that impact and improve the lives of more than two million people nationwide. www.nul.og

Official Black Wall Street

The largest platform for Black-owned businesses with thousands of options for customers who want to support Black-owned businesses.

Professional Diversity Network

This job connection resource is designed specifically to promote diversity in the workplace.

Saint Heron Community Library

This growing media center provides access to an expansive range of Black and Brown voices in poetry, visual art, critical thought and design. “The library’s focus is education, knowledge production, creative inspiration, and skill development through works by artists, designers, historians, and activists from around the world.”


UIU Library Resources
for Black History Month