Fields of Opportunity

Fields of Opportunity

University of Iowa’s Black Migration Stories

Fields of Opportunity marks the telling of a neglected tale about race relations, higher education, and democracy.  Uniting the UI Press publication of Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa during the Long Civil Rights Era and Hancher’s commission of Step Afrika!’s The Migration: Reflections of Jacob Lawrence, this program probes black student experiences at the UI from the 1930s through the 1960s.

In an epoch when many U.S. colleges and universities refused to admit African Americans, the UI not only enrolled black students but also inspired their artistic and athletic accomplishments. The inspiration sometimes took the form of cutting edge instruction, and at other moments, it surfaced as a response to frustrating prejudice.  Within these unique collaborations, we discover rich lessons about multicultural society.

Fields of Opportunity recuperates and celebrates the achievements of black Hawkeyes who introduced American pluralism to a Midwestern and a national citizenry that often resisted such progress.  Over three days, we will pull back the curtain on a concealed part of the UI past.

Wednesday, October 19 5PM

Visible Hawkeyes


This event recalls the 2011 opening panel of the residency, Iowa and Invisible Man: Making Blackness Visible. That panel, “Invisible Hawkeyes,” kicked off a week of events that form the foundation of Fields of Opportunity. Honoring that legacy, “Visible Hawkeyes” will feature video filmed from the 2011 project, a migration story from Dora Martin Berry,the first black student to be elected Miss State University of Iowa, and a special appearance by Step Afrika!.  A reception will follow the program.

You can RSVP for the event at bitly link:

Thursday, October 20 3:30PM

A Life Through Letters: The True Biography of Ralph Ellison Written by Himself

Gerber Lounge, EPB

John Callahan, Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities at Lewis & Clark College, will lecture on Ralph Ellison’s life as revealed through his correspondence.  As literary executor of Ralph Ellison’s estate, Callahan enjoys unique access to the author’s papers. His remarks will explore the ways that Ellison’s ideas about race, individuality, and nation prove powerful tools in understanding an America seeking a practice that matched its creeds.

Thursday, October 20 6:30PM

Book Signing


Join Lena and Michael Hill, co-editors of Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa During the Long Civil Rights Era, as they sign copies of the book.

Thursday, October 20 7:30PM

Performing Migration


Step Afrika! was founded in 1994 as the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. It now ranks as one of the top ten African American dance companies in the United States.  The Migration, Step Afrika!’s new signature work, is based on Jacob Lawrence’s iconic series of paintings charting the African-American movement from south to north in the early 1900s. Each piece incorporates the images, color palette, and motifs of one or more of the paintings to tell the migration story through body percussion and dance.

Book tickets for Step Afrika!

Friday October 21 3-6PM

Records of African American Excellence

Iowa City Public Library

This program—featuring contributors to Invisible Hawkeyes—includes one scholarly panel and one alumni roundtable.  Describing their work on the book, presenters will also explain how the history of black students at the UI clarifies not only mid-20th century racial realities but also 21st century racial tensions.   An extended question and answer period will follow each panel, and refreshments will be served.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa – sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires and accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Division of Student Life at 319-335-3557