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Release: July 18, 2000

Sanders receives $28,900 grant to study early race relations efforts

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Spencer Foundation's Small Grant Research Program has awarded University of Iowa education professor Katrina Sanders a $28,900 grant to study the Fisk University Race Relations Institute between 1944 and 1969.

The project is an extension of Sanders' dissertation work in which she examined the formation and organization of the Race Relations Institute and the methods proposed by African-American sociologist Charles Spurgeon Johnson to calm tensions and foster positive relations between the races.

The project expands upon that work to examine the impact that Johnson's interracial, research-driven social action project had on American race relations. Sanders' work will culminate in a book to be published by Peter Lang.

The Institute was based at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., and was held for two to three weeks each summer between 1944 and 1969. People from across the country attended, as did participants from other countries.

Sanders, an assistant professor in the UI College of Education's Division of Planning, Policy and Leadership Studies, specializes in the history of American education. She also has a grant from the Iowa State Historical Society to research the Burlington, Iowa, Project. During the 1940s and early 1950s, the town conducted a survey to see how blacks in the area were being treated.

"Most of the scholarship on civil rights activity focus primarily on southern activity," Sanders said. "But the African American's struggle to obtain civil rights was not confined to the south. African Americans were also struggling in places like Burlington, Iowa -- a town where African Americans were about 1 percent of the population. This project not only gives insight into the civil rights activities that took place in communities with small numbers of African Americans, it also gives insight into interracial cooperation to secure those civil rights."