- Associated Press - Saturday, October 22, 2016

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - It took more than six decades, but the first black student to be named “Miss State University of Iowa” in 1955 has received official recognition - and an apology - from the university.

Dora Martin Berry was 17 when her fellow students elected her in the annual contest, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported (https://icp-c.com/2dxWF64 ). The university at that time was called the State University of Iowa.

But university officials denied Berry representation as Miss SUI at official school events, including that year’s Rose Bowl parade. Other events at which Miss SUI would have traditionally appeared were canceled.

At an event Friday, university President Bruce Harreld apologized to the now 78-year-old Berry “for 60 years plus of official neglect of your status.”

“We as an institution are very proud of your accomplishments,” Harreld said after a standing ovation for Berry. “And we’re grateful that you are such an important member of our Hawkeye family.

Friday’s event was part of a series this week focused on the publication of a new essay collection, “Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa during the Long Civil Rights Era,” by UI professors Lena and Michael Hill.

“In the 1950s, white universities weren’t electing black campus queens every day,” Berry wrote in her chapter of the new book. “Therefore, UI’s inability to accept that it had created an environment where that could happen made me think ‘shame on them.’”

On Friday, Berry thanked Harreld for his apology and said it was still meaningful to hear after all these years.


This story has been corrected to show the university president’s last name is spelled Harreld, not Herreld.


Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, https://www.press-citizen.com/

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