County once named for slave owner now named after a pioneering Black professor

  • Written by Caitlin O’Kane
  • Published on 25th June 2021
    Lulu Merle Johnson –Twitter
  • Iowa’s Johnson County, which was originally named after Richard Mentor Johnson, a slave owner, is now named after another Johnson – Lulu Merle Johnson, who was a Black professor and a pioneer in her field. The county’s board of supervisors decided in an unanimous vote on Thursday to change county’s official eponym, according to a press release.
  • Johnson was born in Gravity, Iowa in 1907 to a father who was born into slavery. In 1925, she became one of 14 African American women enrolled at State University of Iowa, earning both a bachelor’s and masters degree by 1930, “despite facing open discrimination because of her race and gender,” the board said
  • She later taught at the school while continuing her education and became first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. from the university. Johnson taught history at historically black colleges and universities and was the dean of women at Cheyney State University in Pennsylvania. 


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