LENA & MICHAEL HILL
U of I associate professors Lena and Michael Hill will talk about their book, Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa During the Long Civil Rights Era. Between the 1930s and 1960s, the University of Iowa sought to assert its modernity, cosmopolitanism, and progressivism through an increased emphasis on the fine and performing arts and athletics. Invisible Hawkeyes tells the stories of some of the African American students who enrolled at UI during the years before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. As those students earned degrees in the arts, performed in athletic competitions and participated in campus life, they contributed to civil rights struggles. Their musical, literary, and athletic accomplishments simultaneously ennobled black cultural experiences and confirmed the power of interracial partnership. By examining the quiet collisions between Iowa’s polite midwestern progressivism and African American students’ determined ambition, Invisible Hawkeyes reveals how fraught moments of interracial collaboration, meritocratic advancement, and institutional insensitivity deepen our understanding of America’s painful conversion into a diverse republic committed to racial equality.
“This vital and important work, recovering the lives of early black students at the university, makes even larger claims about the prominence of the Midwest in national conversations about race and African American art and artistic styles.”—Lawrence Jackson
Lena and Michael Hill are associate professors in the Department of English and the African American Studies Program, both part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. They are both coauthors of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: A Reference Guide.