Correction: I neglected to include two more images.
Lucille Bluford. Photo of Find-a-Grave uploaded by Dusty Graves in 2016.
Black History Month includes a woman who left her legacy in Kansas City, Missouri: Lucile Harris Bluford.
Lucile was a well-known journalist who passionately opposed segregation in the education system in the United States. The Kansas City Public Library named one of its branches after her.
In the Special Collections and Archives of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, there is a section dedicated to Lucile Bluford.
Lucile’s younger years
Lucile was born on July 1, 1911 in Salisbury, North Carolina. She lost her mother, Viola H. Bluford, when she was 10 years old. Her father, John H. Bluford, was a professor at the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina.
Lucile’s father accepted a position teaching science at Lincoln High School in Kansas City in 1921. Lucile later also attended that high school.
Because Missouri was a Jim Crow state, Lucile was exposed to segregation in schools at a young age. The Jim Crow laws lasted from the 1870s to basically the 1960s until those laws thankfully ended.
Lucile’s college years
Since Lucile was interested in journalism, she was encouraged to pursue that interest by an English teacher named Trussie Smothers. Smothers also taught at Lincoln High School. When Lucile was in this high school, she discovered her direction by working on the yearbook of the school newspaper and The Call of Kansas City after school.
In 1928, Lucile was the valedictorian of her graduating class. In 1932 she attended the University of Kansas School of Journalism with honors. She was the second black student to study in KU’s journalism program. On the school newspaper she was she night and telegraph editor.
In 1932, Lucile began working with the Kansas City newspaper The Call, with which she remained for 69 years. This newspaper was a tool for Lucile to fight for racial equality, and this newspaper still exists. When the newspaper’s founder (Chester A. Franklin) died, Lucile became a co-owner with Chester’s wife, Ada C. Franklin.
After working for The Daily World in Atlanta, Georgia for a summer, she returned to the city she loved to work as a reporter for Kansas City American. She soon switched to its rival paper, The Call, at the invitation of Chester A. Franklin. She remained at The Call for the rest of her career, going from puppy reporter to city editor to editor-in-chief and finally editor, owner and publisher. (Source.) Lucile Bluford. Photo by LaBudde Special Collections, UMKC University Libraries (used with permission).
Cause for education
When Lucile applied to the Master of Journalism program at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, Missouri in 1939, she was accepted. However, when she showed up at the school to enroll, she was denied admission due to her race. Sad to say, she was expected to have black students attending Lincoln University, an all-black campus in Jefferson City, Missouri.
His experience is very similar to that of Lloyd L. Gaines who previously sued the University of Missouri. Lucile has filed several lawsuits against the university. In 1941, her case went to the Missouri Supreme Court but failed. With low attendance due to World War II, the university closed its journalism major. Subsequently, Lincoln University opened a journalism school. Lucile tried to get into the University of Missouri 11 times.
Lucile’s legacy has not been forgotten
In 1989, the University of Missouri honored Lucile with an honorary doctorate.
In 2002, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce presented her with the Kansas Citian of the Year Award and she also received a Distinguished Service Award from the NAACP.
In 2018, the University of Missouri-Columbia named a residence hall in his honor.
Lucile Bluford. Photo by LaBudde Special Collections, UMKC University Libraries (used with permission).
July 1 was Lucille’s birthday. In 2016, the State of Missouri passed a bill to mark Lucile Bluford Day on July 1 to remember her for all that she has contributed to the state and to journalism. She was “a leading voice in the civil rights movement in Kansas City and helped make The Call one of the largest and most important African-American newspapers in the nation.” (Source.)
Today, while there is still much work to be done to achieve equality, Kansas City’s black community is a source of pride and strength to the city as a whole. One woman who definitely left her legacy in Kansas City was Lucile.
Lucile died on June 13, 2003, at the age of 91. She is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Thanks for reading!