Virginia Harper


"I can't think of anyone else who has done more in this century for promoting the educational opportunities of women and minorities in Iowa than Virginia Harper."
—George F. Garcia, Ed.D., 1992

Virginia Harper, born in 1929, is an advocate for equality and justice for all Iowans. She became an activist at 11 years of age, when she led in desegregating the local theatre. In 1946, as a first-year student at the University of Iowa, she and four other African-American women integrated Currier Hall. As the first African-American woman on the State Board of Public Instruction, she effectively spearheaded the move for multicultural, nonsexist requirements in Iowa education. Her efforts aided in the adoption of the human relations requirement for teachers. Harper was also the first African-American woman appointed to the Iowa Board of Parole. A life member of the NAACP, Harper, working at the state and regional levels, has been president of the local branch from 1978 to the present. She has served on the Fort Madison Human Rights commission and the Library Board of Trustees, and has been a prison volunteer. She is a member of Amnesty International, League of Women Voters, the National Council of Negro Women, and the Iowa and American Corrections Association. She currently serves on the Fort Madison School District Human Equity Committee and is involved in a variety of activities that deal with equity and justice. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1992.

Harper served as President of the Fort Madison Branch of the NAACP and was involved in the Fort Madison School District's Human Equity Committee. She died in 1997. In 1998, Harper posthumously received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Achievement Award from the Iowa Commission on the Status of African-Americans.