When her nephew was denied entry to the Ellis Pool in 1941 because he was Black, Viola Gibson was determined to desegregate the pool.
With other community members, Gibson helped reactivate the Cedar Rapids NAACP branch, and she led the group’s desegregation efforts. Eventually, they were successful and Ellis Pool was open equally to everyone.
Gibson continued to lead racial justice efforts in the community. She led a campaign in the 1960s to push for the Iowa congressional delegation’s support of the Civil Rights Act. Locally, she set up adult evening classes on Black history—the first in the state of Iowa.
Gibson attended Cedar Rapids Community School District as a student. As an adult, she was key in pushing for Black history to be taught in CRCSD classrooms.
When a new elementary school opened in 2002, Cedar Rapids Community School District honored her by naming it Viola Gibson Elementary School.
Learn more about Gibson here.