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The Scarlet & Black

Kesho Scott in Iowa African American Hall of Fame

By Julia Echikson

For her work in activism, Professor Kesho Scott, Sociology, will be inducted into the Iowa African American Hall of Fame on Nov. 4 along with three other inductees. The Iowa African American Hall of Fame in Des Moines aims to reward African Americans who have made a positive impact in their local community or throughout the state.

“They are role models and exemplars in their service for all people,” said Rudy Simms, Chair of the Hall of Fame’s Nominating Committee.

According to a 2015 census, 94 percent of Iowans identified as white and only two percent identified as African  American. The Hall shines an important light on the often overlooked history of African Americans in Iowa and the state’s effort to be inclusive. By recognizing the achievements of African Americans, the Hall of Fame also seeks to change the perception of African Americans to the general public by breaking down stereotypes and highlighting the potential of African Americans.

The Hall of Fame is inducting Scott because of her efforts preventing discrimination. Simms touted her activism, which has endured several decades and has been expressed through different avenues.

“There is just so much she has done,” Simms said. “It’s hard to point your finger at just one thing.”

Scott’s most notable accomplishments include pioneering positions she held in Iowa’s higher education institutions. Scott is not only the first African American woman to get a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, but is also the first African American woman to earn tenure at Grinnell College. Her workshops, called “Unlearning Racism,” started in the early nineties and provided participants with mechanisms to combat discrimination.

“[The workshop showed how those values were] reflected in how they lived their lives,” Scott said.

Scott considers the induction one of the most meaningful awards she has received, not only because it rewards individuals who have made Iowa a better place, but also because she believes it establishes her work as a continuation of abolitionist J.B. Grinnell’s work and the abolitionist tradition in Iowa.

“[J.B. Grinnell] created a town in which slavery could be opposed. Fast forward that to my life in the 1980s, I’m just picking up another version of that work of greater equality,” Scott said.

Ultimately, the induction will cement Scott’s legacy in Iowa.

“My grandchildren and my great grandchildren will not only be able to point their finger at those years of service at Grinnell College in which I taught, but that I contributed to community and that community contributed is state that continues to be courageous to fight against all ‘ism,’ particularly racism,” Scott said.

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