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Iowa county now named for Black dean, not slave-owning VP

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s most liberal county is no longer named for a slave-owning U.S. vice president and instead will honor a trailblazing local Black academic. 

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to cut ties with its two-century namesake, former Vice President Richard Mentor Johnson. 

The lifelong slave owner from Kentucky had no ties to the county. The Wisconsin Territorial Legislature had named the county after Johnson in 1837, years before Iowa became a state. 

County supervisors decided the county is now named for the late historian and university administrator Lulu Merle Johnson. 

The Gravity, Iowa, native was the first African American woman to earn a doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1941. Her father was born into slavery.


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