Exhibit highlights African Americans in Iowa

Cavan Regan

ISU students will now be able to view a traveling exhibit on campus that highlights the history of African Americans in Iowa. The exhibit, which is owned by the African American Heritage Foundation of Iowa, was first displayed at North Grand Mall and then was moved to the Ames Public Library. The display will debut Monday at the Parks Library where it will stay all week. Among the topics covered in the display are the Underground Railroad, the Tuskegee Airmen and the Iowa Negro Baseball teams. “It wasn’t easy to [choose which areas to cover] because there’s so much more African-American history that we could have put into the exhibit,” said Joseph McGill, executive director of the Iowa African American Museum. “We had to be selective and deal with issues that we could verify through photographs and artifacts that we could actually visualize.” The exhibit was brought to Ames through the work of Eveadean Myers, associate director of Affirmative Action at Iowa State. Ames is the exhibit’s fourth Iowa stop since January – it has also been displayed in Cedar Rapids, Clinton and Waterloo. “She contacted us last year and inquired about it after it was in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. It’s been in the works since December or January,” said Jennifer Kemp, development assistant of the Iowa African American Museum. The displays include two glass towers with Civil War and Negro League baseball uniforms, several pictures and informational plaques. There is also a virtual tour of the museum. “The virtual tour was done by a gentleman from Slater named Dick Shook,” McGill said. “He put the video together for us using information and graphics that we had submitted to him.” The exhibit is visiting Ames through a grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust. After leaving Ames Nov. 3, the display will travel to Des Moines. “We’re making arrangements for it to go to the State Historical Building. It will be there from the end of November through the end of January,” McGill said. “From there it will go back to Clinton.” The Iowa African American Museum is temporarily located in Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids. It is in the midst of a capital-raising campaign to fund the construction of a larger site for the museum. “The museum will do on a larger scale what the traveling exhibit is doing – interpret the history of African Americans throughout the state of Iowa,” McGill said. “If we wrap this campaign up by year’s end, we will start building in the spring of 2001.” The exhibit is free and open to the public.