CJ Simmons, the great-great-grandson of Archie and Nancy Martin, said his family’s legacy is why it is so special for him to attend Iowa State.
When asked why he chose Iowa State, Simmons said he had two reasons- being awarded the MVP Scholarship and continuing to add to his family’s legacy.
“I have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more coming through and getting their education at this school,” Simmons said. “So it's incredible for me to add my name to that list.”
Simmons’ great-great-grandparents, Archie and Nancy Martin, were an African American couple who opened their home on Lincoln Way to students of color who were not allowed to stay in the Iowa State residence halls in the early 1900s. While housing many students, Archie went to the then Iowa State President Raymond Pearson and fought for the students’ right to live on campus. After meeting with the president, Archie won the students of colors’ right to live in the residence halls.
This is why, according to Simmons, living in Martin Hall, which was named in honor of Archie and Nancy Martin, feels like coming full circle.
“Back in the day of Archie and Nancy Martin, African Americans weren't allowed to stay on campus in the dorms to obtain a better life,” Simmons said. “Nowadays, their family [is] able to go to college and strive to make the world a better place like they helped so many to do.”
According to Simmons, not only does this show how far Iowa State has come, but society as a whole.
“Like my great-great-grandparents, Jack Trice and George Washington Carver, many took steps to allow Iowa State to be more inclusive,” Simmons said.
While Simmons said that society and Iowa State has made many steps toward full racial equality, he states that there’s still much work to be done. For example, Simmons hopes to see Iowa State give more access to information about African Americans of past and present.
“I say for the past [because] not many people know of my great-great-grandparents despite the hard work they put into Iowa State,” Simmons said. “I also speak of the present because some aspects of college life that showcase African Americans are not visible in Iowa State's eye.”
Simmons then gave the example of many historically African American fraternities and clubs not having enough funds to raise awareness or improve the community.
Overall, while Simmons is honored to be a part of the Martin family legacy at Iowa State, he looks forward to the next steps Iowa State will take in working towards true inclusion and equality.