County Once Named For Slave Owner Now Named After Pioneering Black Professor

Contributed By Scott Lipscomb

We love to see change in our country. This past Thursday The Johnson County Board of Supervisors in Iowa City, Iowa, voted unanimously to change the county’s name to that of a Black professor, a pioneer in education.

The county is now named in honor of Lulu Merle Johnson. It was originally named for Richard Mentor Johnson, a long-time slave owner who took credit for the murder of Shawnee Chief Tecumseh at the Battle of Thames in 1805, according to CBS News.

“We recognize that place-names embody the identity and cultural values of a place. For that reason, it is important to establish an eponym of Johnson County who represents what is important to the people who live here,” Lisa Green-Douglass, Board of Supervisors member, tells the television news outlet. “It has been a privilege to chair the Johnson County Eponym Committee, and to be able to recognize, honor, and establish Dr. Lulu Merle Johnson as the County’s official eponym.”

Johnson was a part of the first HBCU Cheyney State University in Pennsylvania. She was considered a pioneer in both the state of Iowa, and in the development of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She served as the dean of women as well as led history classes.
She became the first Black woman to earn a Ph. D. at the University of Iowa, despite facing racism and sexism from students and school administration, the report notes.

“Notwithstanding such discrimination, students of color like Ms. Johnson shared their brilliance with our institution and contributed to making the UI who we are today,” Iowa’s interim Chief Diversity Officer Lena M. Hill tells CBS News.