When Lucile Bluford showed up to enroll at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism in 1939, she was turned away. School officials had accepted the talented journalist into their graduate degree program, but didn’t realize she was African American until they saw her in person. Bluford did not accept these racist practices, and she decided to act – becoming one of the most significant civil rights activists in Missouri. Along with the NAACP, she filed a lawsuit against the school.
Under the separate but equal practices at the time, Bluford was told to enter the School of Journalism at Lincoln University, a program that didn’t exist. After two years in the court system, and eleven unsuccessful attempts to attend the University, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Bluford’s favor, but the University of Missouri closed its program rather than admit her to it. Bluford never gained entry into the University of Missouri’s program, but her efforts contributed to a nationwide movement to end segregation, which would not be achieved until 1954.
More than 40 years later, the University recognized their error and awarded Lucile Bluford an honorary degree. Change is hard and takes time – but Bluford is an example of the type of bravery and courage required to make lasting change.
Lucile Bluford not only fought for civil rights in the courtroom, she also used journalism as a venue for changing minds and pushing for racial equality. Seventy years of her life she spent working for the Kansas City Call – as a reporter, editor and partial owner. In this capacity she took a stand on many important issues and became a leading voice in the fight for equality – commenting on politics, discrimination, local boycotts, and ultimately empowering readers to become more actively involved in their community.
Today you can visit a plaque and video biography in Lucile’s honor at the southbound 18th and Prospect station on Prospect MAX. You can also learn about her at the Lucile Bluford branch of the Kansas City Public Library. She is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery.
Click here for the Kansas City Public Library’s biography on Lucile Bluford.
Lucile Bluford collection at the University of Missouri – KC Special Collections.
Lucile Bluford has been honored as a part of the Paving the Way Honor Plaques by RideKC.
University of Missouri has named a residence hall in her honor.