Lulu Johnson—CHS Hall of Honor

A current Clinton High School student or 2020 graduate has researched and written the following article about one of the 2020-21 Hall of Honor inductees.  The CHS Hall of Honor Induction will be held on Friday, April 16.

Lulu Johnson

Accomplishments in Academic Fields

By Viviana Ramirez

Graduate of 1925 from Clinton High School Lulu Johnson was the first African-American woman to earn a PhD in the state of Iowa and the second ever in the history of the United States. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa before receiving her master’s degree in history there. From then on Johnson taught history and politics at Talladega College from 1930-1931 and later at Tougaloo College from 1931 to 1940.Years later Johnson went on to teach history at historically black colleges as Florida A&M University, West Virginia State College, and Cheyney University in Pennsylvania. At Cheyney, Johnson served as a history professor and a dean of women students.

Johnson is no stranger to struggle as she was forced to take a swim class as a requirement for her doctorate, even though she was enrolled in the history PhD program. To make matters worse, Johnson was not allowed to use the university pool at the same time as the white students. One of her most significant struggles was when she had to defend her doctorate dissertation, “The Problem of Slavery in the Old Northwest.” After constant discrimination obstacles, Johnson decided to leave her beloved home state of Iowa to find better opportunities for her underlying passion for teaching. To leave her whole life behind and travel into the unknown takes an immense amount of courage, which Johnson had a lot of. Her persona was one of a courageous, sophisticated leader.

In Johnson’s early years, her drive for getting an education was evident as she would have her sister pick out words from the dictionary and Johnson would give the definition. She continued to work hard for her success and believed that there was no such thing as “the easy way out.” Later she held her students to those same values, rarely giving out A’s unless it was obvious that hard work was put in.  Johnson’s expectations for her students were high, as she restricted them from talking in slang and insisted they speak properly. Johnson was clearly tough on her students, but she was also a motivator who expected excellent work on all assignments.

Her impact on CHS will affect generations to come as she was looked as a strong-willed leader, who motivated her peers if they had given up. Despite her strong personality she had a soft side, one that was lovable and compassionate towards others. She valued her family, only wanting the best for them and being the shoulder that anyone could cry on. Overall, Lulu Johnson is a prime example of what every student should strive to be, a strong leader fueled by passion.

Due to the pandemic, the Clinton High School Hall of Honor induction was postponed last year. The district is now planning to honor this strong class of inductees on Friday, April 16 at Clinton High School. The public will be invited for the luncheon and induction speech portion of the day. Social distancing, face coverings, and sanitation routines will be required.

The Clinton High School culinary students will cater the luncheon. Inductees will be guests of the Hall of Honor Committee. The luncheon will cost $10 per other attendees. Main entrees are Lasagne Al Forno (Italian Beef Lasagna) or Chicken Parmigiana (Chicken Parmesan). If you are interested in attending, please contact Deb Deters at ddeters@clintonia.org.

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