In honor of Black History Month, the Student Center is currently featuring displays that explore the history of the African American experience at the University of Missouri - Columbia.
In this post, I have decided to profile significant African American individuals from the history of the University. To learn more about Black History at Mizzou, be sure to stop by the Student Center and check out the display case in the Lower Lair Lounge and the square cases on the main level just outside of Mort's.
Lucile BlufordA professional Journalist, Bluford applied to MU’s Journalism graduate program in 1939. She, along with the NAACP, sued the school; unfortunately, the court ruled in favor of the university. Mizzou gave Bluford an honorary doctorate in 1989. (Summer 1989, MIZZOU, Courtesy of University Archives)
In 1936, Lloyd Gaines, an honors graduate from Lincoln University, applied for admission to the University of Missouri School of Law. Rejected solely on the grounds of his race, Gaines--with the help of the NAACP and attorney Charles Hamilton Houston--sued the MU registrar (S.W. Canada), arguing that “to refuse him entrance was to deprive him of his liberty and freedom of action without due process of law” (1938 Missouri Alumnus). In 1938, Gaines won his case before the U. S. Supreme Court in State of Missouri ex rel Gaines v. Canada, paving the way for a series of cases that ultimately led to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which outlawed segregation in public education. Despite the favorable ruling, Gaines was never to realize his law ambitions. Reported missing in 1939, Gaines was never seen again. In 2006, the University of Missouri granted Lloyd Gaines a posthumous honorary doctorate.
Dr. Gus T. Ridgel
Gus T. Ridgel, a magna cum laude graduate of Lincoln University, was among the first African-Americans to gain admittance to the University of Missouri. In 1951, Ridgel earned a Master's degree in Economics—the first time an African-American received a degree from MU. Mizzou established the Gus T. Ridgel Minority Graduate Fellowship in 1987 and presented Dr. Ridgel with an honorary doctorate in 1996. (Spring 1998 Missouri Alumnus, Courtesy of University Archives)
Mel West and Norris Stevenson
Mel West and Norris Stevenson were the first two African-American players on Mizzou’s football team. (1959 Savitar)
Harold Holliday was the first African-American student elected to an office (Vice President) in the Missouri Students Association (MSA). (1967 Savitar)
Dr. Arvarh E. Strickland
A respected historian, Dr. Arvarh Strickland, became the first African American faculty member in the department of History in 1969. At that time, Strickland was the only African American faculty member at MU. Once on campus, Strickland urged the university to be more inclusive in both their future hires and student admissions. He became the first African American Chair of the History Department in 1980 and was named educator of the year by the St. Louis American in 1994. This is one among many honors that the distinguished professor received during his career. In 2007, Mizzou renamed the General Classroom Building as ‘Strickland Hall’ in honor of the professor. (Fall 2007, MIZZOU, Courtesy of University Archives)
Jill Young broke many color barriers while at the University of Missouri. In 1969 she became the first African-American Varsity Cheerleader on the predominantly white campus. In 1971 she became the first African-American woman to be crowned Homecoming Queen at Mizzou. (November 1971 Missouri Alumnus, Courtesy of University Archives)
Dr. Walter D. Daniel
In 1973, Dr. Walter D. Daniel was named vice chancellor of the campus, making him the first African American administrator at Mizzou. (January 1973, Missouri Alumnus, Courtesy of University Archives)
Michael Middleton, Esq.
MU’s current Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton was a founding member of Alpha Phi Alpha’s Columbia chapter, as well as a founding member of the Legion of Black Collegians. He also became the first African American Law School professor at the University of Missouri in 1985. (2001 Savitar)
Dr. Jenice Stewart
Dr. Jenice Stewart was the first female faculty member in the Accounting Department and when she was hired in the 1980s, she was the only African American faculty member in the College of Business and Public Administration. (Fall 1987 Missouri Alumnus)
In 2002 Mykael Wright became the first African American elected the serve as the President of the Missouri Students Association. (2002 Savitar)
You can also learn more about Black History at Mizzou at the following links:
Authored by Sarah Horne, PhD Student in Art History and Archaeology