Rich and Diverse History

Understand the role of African Americans in our nation’s history

Celebrating Black Excellence

Gain a true appreciation of the African American experience

Embracing Black Culture

A time to celebrate the achievements and culture of African-Americans

Black History

“There is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honoring our struggle and ancestors by remembering.” – Lonnie G. Bunch III (Director of the Smithsonian Institution, 2016)

February is Black History Month, an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Black individuals while also giving visibility to the people and organizations creating change.  This celebration originated in 1926 as a week-long observance of two important figures in the anti-slavery movement, social reformer Frederick Douglass and former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, who celebrated their birthday in mid-February.

In the late 1960s, the week-long observance became Black History Month due to the rise in the civil rights movement and increased awareness of Black identity and culture.  However, it wasn’t until 1986 that Congress passed “National Black History Month” into law, allowing for a more formal observance.

While racism and slavery are important topics for discussion, Black History Month also provides an opportunity to highlight the accomplishments and contributions of Black individuals and leaders while also inviting engagement with Black history and culture.

Below are some highlights of our Black History at the University:

Throughout History – Our Notable African American Alumni

Susan Mosely Grandison 1885 

Born in Calhoun County, Missouri, Mrs. Grandison completed instruction at Mt. Pleasant High School before entering Iowa Wesleyan University in 1881. After graduating in 1885, she dedicated her life and career to education. She taught for two years in Iowa before moving out of state to teach at Clark University in Atlanta, Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Wiley University in Marshall, Texas.

Mrs. Grandison was the first Black student to graduate from Iowa Wesleyan University and was among the first 2,000 Black college graduates in the U.S.

Agnes M. Mason 1887

Originally from Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Ms. Mason completed her collegiate preparatory work at the Iowa Wesleyan Academy in the early 1880s. Her career as a teacher in Evanston, Illinois, reflected her lifelong dedication to education.

Ms. Mason was the second African American student to graduate from IW.

Louise Mason Greenup 1891

Mrs. Greenup was born in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and was a dual-degree holder.  She completed her master’s degree and taught in both Iowa and Missouri.  Mrs. Greeneup was the third African American to graduate from IW.

Ida Mae Godfrey 1898

Originally from Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Ms. Godfrey completed instruction at Mt. Pleasant High School before entering Iowa Wesleyan University in 1894.  She was the associate editor of the campus newspaper and held all officer positions for the Hypatia Literary Society.  After graduating from IW, Ms. Godfrey taught in Kansas City Public Schools until 1940.

Ms. Godfrey was the fourth African American to graduate from IW.

Dr. Clement Isong 1954

One of three Nigerian students to come to IW in 1951, Dr. Isong studied Economics.  As a student, he began a lecture circuit in the greater Southeast Iowa region to speak about African heritage, culture, and Methodism; he became known as an “Old Friend” to many locals.  After graduation from IW in 1954, Dr. Isong continued his education at Harvard University, earning his master’s and doctorate degrees before returning to Nigeria in 1967.

From 1967 to 1975, Dr. Isong served as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and remains one of the most celebrated governors in Nigerian history.

History Continues - Alumni Testimonials

“Prior to graduating my senior year, I was fortunate to spend time in the IW Admissions Office as an admission counselor intern. It is because of that experience I was able to seamlessly transfer into my first full-time job as an admission counselor at Coe College. The intern experience springboarded my career into higher education. Additionally, the student affairs professionals who I had while a student at IW were vital to me wanting to pursue a career in the field.”

Jamarco Clark ’14 M.A., Ph.D. | Bachelor’s Degree in Educational Foundations

University of Iowa; Assistant Dean of Student & Director of Leadership & Engagement


“I was happy to be able to be involved with a university that had so many resources to help me succeed. I enjoyed spending time with friends, sororities, and attending IW sporting events. I am happy I attended a university that had staff that went out of [their way] to help you succeed, and be better prepared for life after college.”

Kevina Buckner `20 | Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

SCRAM of Las Vegas

“Iowa Wesleyan prepared me for my current career by showing and teaching me how to be a true professional. Between my music and business classes, I kept a very busy schedule and had no choice but to put my best foot forward at all times. This has really assisted me in preparing, working, and performing at different events as well as working with different parents and students in financial aid.”

LaShawnda Roberts ’19 | Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Music
Iowa Wesleyan University; Senior Financial Aid Counselor

“My IW degree in computer science positioned me to secure multiple opportunities in tech over the past 13 years. I started as an intern, Software Engineer, Engineering Manager, and now Director of Engineering. One experience that enhanced my cultural assimilation to the United States was the 200 hours of community services that were required during my attendance at Wesleyan. I met various people and developed a strong understanding of the American way of life.”

Bruno Rwayitare ’08 | Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

Collins Aerospace; Director of Engineering



“Iowa Wesleyan allowed me to grow in so many aspects of my life. New environment, supportive staff and learning experiences.”

Elisa Bell ’83, M.D. | Bachelor’s Degree in Biology

Child/Adolescent & Adult Psychiatrist, Private Practice