Women’s History Wednesday!
When Dora Martin Berry was crowned the first black Miss University of Iowa in 1955, it made news around the world. “It’s not the color of the skin that should matter, it’s just the person,” she told reporters.
Unfortunately things were not as progressive as they seemed. As she explained in a 1997 oral history interview with the Iowa Women’s Archives, University administration immediately changed pageant rules to prevent such an occurrence in the future, and cancelled or had Berry replaced in events traditionally attended by the campus queen. Despite facing such discrimination, she still has positive memories of the experience. “I never wasted much time being upset about what they did or didn’t do, because they couldn’t diminish what had happened to me,” Berry told IWA. ”That was a gift that is mine to keep.”
Learn more at Iowa Digital Library:
Dora Martin Berry oral history, photos, clippings
African American Women Students at the UI digital collection