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Frances Hawthorne papers

Identifier: IWA0473

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Scope and Contents

The Frances Hawthorne papers date from 1906 to 2000 (with the bulk dating from 1950 to 1996) and measure 2 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Iowa Humanities Board Grant, Oral Interviews, Research Materials, Outside In, and Black History in Iowa.

The Iowa Humanities Board Grant series contains the 1991 letter awarding the African American History Project a major grant and the June 6, 1992 progress report.

The Oral Interviews series consists of audiocassettes and transcripts for interviews Frances Hawthorne conducted in the spring and summer of 1992. The interviews were conducted in several Iowa communities and contain a record of what it was like to grow up black in Iowa during the twentieth century. Those interviewed include: Frances Brewton (Des Moines), Geraldine Brown (Burlington), Frances Carson (Des Moines), Betty Jean Furgerson (Waterloo), Gwendolene Barry Harris (Des Moines), Marjorie Marsh (Ft. Madison), Artice Maxwell (Marshalltown), Bessie Spencer (Marshalltown) and Paul Wilson, who shared his memories of the now defunct Buxton, Iowa. The series also contains handwritten notes Frances Hawthorne took during the interviews. The towns listed are where the interviews took place, but describe the shared experience of growing up in various Iowa communities. For example, Brewton attended schools in Estherville, Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City; while Carson lived in both Clarinda and Red Oak before moving to Des Moines.

The Research Materials series contains journal articles, newspaper clippings, flyers and pamphlets, memoirs, and secondary sources that Frances Hawthorne collected about African Americans in Iowa. The series maintains Hawthorne's original filing system. The series begins with general materials regarding black history in Iowa. These materials include articles about blacks in Iowa, Hawthorne's handwritten research notes, articles regarding the Underground Railroad in Iowa, copies of the 1937-1941 "Federal Papers" concerning blacks in Iowa county by county, and a videocassette produced by Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., entitled James P. Thompson: 51 Years in the Bond, 1941-1992. Thompson discusses what it was like to attend the University of Iowa in Iowa City as a black man, the history of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity in Iowa City, and how fraternity brothers in Des Moines and across the state carried on the chapter's goals in their professional lives following graduation from the university.

The bulk of the Research Materials series consists of newspaper articles, flyers, pamphlets and notes about various Iowa communities, particularly Buxton and Des Moines. The Buxton materials include articles, an audiocassette of the 1992 Buxton Reunion Banquet, a copy of Reuben Gaines' memoir of growing up in Buxton and the videocassette You Can't Go Back to Buxton, produced for public television in 1979 and narrated by Mary Jane Odell. The Des Moines materials include articles, flyers, pamphlets, and handwritten notes. The series also contains secondary articles from various Iowa history journals. A copy of Hawthorne's resulting research, African-American History in Iowa: A Chronicle of Contributions, 1830-1992, is shelved in IWA's printed works collection.

The Outside In series contains Hawthorne's research files for the chapter she contributed to Outside In: African American History in Iowa, 1838-1998 on Iowa's black churches. The planning meeting materials consist of agenda programs and notes on publication. The chronological files contain notes and research materials from these time periods, and correspond to the sections of Hawthorne's chapter. The additional research files contain primary source materials such as newspaper clippings, church publications and photographs; and secondary source materials such as published articles on Iowa black history and two master's theses by Iowa State University students, "The Negro Church in Iowa," by Hazel Smith (1926) and "The Bystander: A History of the First 25 Years," by Sally Stevens Cotton (1983). The series concludes with Hawthorne's drafts of the chapter (titled "Chapter 8") and her bibliography.

The Black History in Iowa series contains materials Hawthorne collected about Iowa's African American history. These include pamphlets and information about black history events in Iowa, newspaper clippings on African American women, research on the Underground Railroad in Iowa and general newspaper clippings. The series includes six issues of The African-American Journal, a publication of the Iowa Commission on the Status of African Americans. The series concludes with the program from the National Iowa Club (an organization for black Iowans living outside the state) Reunion Homecoming in 1996. This spiral bound book contains many photographs and historical documents from Center Street, the heart of the African American neighborhood in Des Moines until the 1960s.


  • Creation: 1906-2000


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Frances E. Hawthorne was born in 1928, the oldest of nine children. Hawthorne grew up on a farm near Eolia, Missouri, where she walked three miles each way to attend a segregated school. In 1947 Hawthorne started college at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. She moved to Des Moines, Iowa, following her marriage to Peter Hawthorne. Frances Hawthorne taught fourth and fifth grade history in Des Moines schools before becoming the principal of Edmunds Academy of Fine Arts (Des Moines), which offered a creative learning environment for kindergarten through fifth grade children by combining fine arts with the curriculum.

Hawthorne retired in 1990. In 1992 the Iowa Humanities Board awarded a grant to the African American History Project, which sponsored Hawthorne's research resulting in African-American History in Iowa: A Chronicle of Contributions, 1830-1992. In 1996, Hawthorne joined a group of historians who began working on a comprehensive book about African Americans in Iowa, Outside In: African American History in Iowa, 1838-1998, which was published in 2000. Hawthorne wrote "Chapter 16: The Church."


2.00 Linear Feet

8 audiocassettes [AC885-AC892]; 2 videocassettes [V286-V287] boxes

Language of Materials



Des Moines educator whose materials include You Can't Go Back to Buxton and African Americans in Iowa: a Chronicle of Contributions, 1830-1992.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 713) were donated by Frances Hawthorne in 2003 and subsequent years.

Related Materials

Betty Jean Furgerson papers (IWA): Teacher, social worker, human rights commission director, and university regent from Waterloo.

Marjorie Marsh papers (IWA):  Fort Madison, Iowa, native, and active club member and volunteer.

Verda L.Williams papers (IWA):  Filmmaker and producer; communication specialist at Iowa State University.

Extension Communication Services wrote and produced the documentary "Black Des Moines: Voices Seldom Heard," which was utilized as a resource by Frances Hawthorne. [shelved in videocassette collection: V06]

Lisa Mott, 2004; Kate Stewart, 2006.
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)