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Kington honored as an Iowa History Maker

President+Raynard+S.+Kington+was+honored+at+the+American+Museum+of+Iowa%E2%80%99s+History+Makers+Gala+last+week+for+his+work+at+the+College+and+in+Grinnell.+Photo+by+Shabana+Gupta
President Raynard S. Kington was honored at the American Museum of Iowa’s History Makers Gala last week for his work at the College and in Grinnell. Photo by Shabana Gupta

By Ingrid Meulemans
meuleman@grinnell.edu

President Raynard S. Kington was honored at the American Museum of Iowa’s History Makers Gala last week for his work at the College and in Grinnell. Photo by Shabana Gupta

President of the College Raynard S. Kington was honored at The African American Museum of Iowa’s History Makers Gala last week.

The African American Museum of Iowa (AAMI) hosts an annual History Maker’s Gala in order to fundraise for the museum and, according to the foundation’s website, “honor African Americans who’ve made an indelible impact as a trailblazer, change agent, legacy maker or role model in their communities.”

This year, along with Kington, Marie Christian of Davenport, Bridget Saffold of Cedar Rapids and Lorinda (Lori) Ampey of Cedar Rapids were also celebrated as “History Makers.”

The AAMI defines a History Maker as “an individual who, by their actions, modifies the course of history, imparting knowledge and impacting the communities in which we live. Through their existence and influence, history is forever changed.”

This year’s honorees are, by definition, people actively changing and shaping society. Chosen because of his position at the College and outreach initiatives in the Grinnell community, President Kington fits this definition completely. However, Kington himself initially felt he was not in a position to accept.

“I generally don’t like awards,” Kington said. “My first reaction was to say, ‘Thank you, I’m very flattered, but no thank you’. And then I reminded myself, [the History Maker award] is not about me. In many ways, it’s about being a role model.”

Upon receiving the award, Kington was able to visit the AAMI for the first time. Although unable to visit previously, Kington is a longtime supporter of the museum, and his visit convinced him that the College should try to be more involved with the AAMI. “I think we’ll probably continue to look for ways to see how the College might be able to connect with the museum,” Kington said. “I think it’s an unusual institution in [our] state. And I commend them for really trying to have a place that focuses on the contributions of [the] African-American community to Iowa.”

As the first person of color to become president of an institution in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM), Kington understands the importance of including as many narratives as possible in the state’s history.

“There are definitely some parts of our history that Iowa should be proud of,” Kington said. “From the Underground Railroad to the outlawing of segregated schools before Brown v. Board of Education. But at a time when this country continues to struggle with its original sin of slavery, and the aftermath of slavery … I think these types of institutions are even more important. They help us understand [our past]. Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. And so I think there’s value in having institutions like this, that help us understand different sort of perspectives on the history of the state and the contribution of various communities.”

Kington hopes to strengthen the bond between the College and the AAMI and continue his outreach work in the community of Grinnell. Kington cites his partnership with AmeriCorps as work he is particularly proud of and what he believes made him stand out to the AAMI.

“[A good] example is the AmeriCorps program,” said Kington. “We were focused on improving reading readiness, and … we actually showed an impact on scores. … Kids who were [struggling] financially were actually those who were gaining the most. But I think there’s a real commitment of the College to try to be actively engaged in the community, and I think that’s a reflection of a better understanding of how closely the College’s future is tied to the success of this town.”

While citing different ways Iowa has been striving for racial equity, Kington also brought up the need for further advancement. “It’s a complicated history,” he said. “Even though Grinnell was part of the Underground Railroad, it was segregated in lots of ways. So I think institutions like [the AAMI], [especially] in states that don’t have a huge population of African Americans, can help us understand the past and maybe do better in the future.”

As a 2019 History Maker, Kington is actively working towards the betterment of the Grinnell community as well as racial equity in Iowa.

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    Henry GaddisOct 14, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Dr Kington’s deference to modesty over his achievement is understandable. However his contributions should never be overlooked. They are historic as well as potentially inspiring to young folks in general and in particular to many Americans of African descent.
    Although the Underground Railroad’s principal objective was to safely steward enslaved humans to freedom an adjuvant objective of that liberating network was to provide inter alia opportunities for the newly emancipated to ultimately access education. Dr. Kington stands on the shoulders of those who struggled before him and his contributions to Iowa and to this country clearly demonstrate his role as a change agent of history. The African American Museum of Iowa’s astute and timely recognition of Dr. Kington is well earned and all are to be congratulated.
    Henry Gaddis Sr.

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