(Kansas City, Missouri) - Lucile Bluford's imprint on local and national history is doubly deep.
She was 77 when she finally was awarded a degree from the University of Missouri in 1989 - an honorary doctorate reflecting Bluford's seven decades as a successful and influential journalist at Kansas City's premier African American newspaper, The Call. She accepted it, she said, "not only for myself but for thousands of black students" the university had discriminated against over the years.
Bluford had helped right a longtime wrong, playing a key role in the eventual elimination of the country's "separate but equal" doctrine in education.
A new exhibit at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., chronicles her lengthy legal battle for admission to MU's graduate program in journalism, a three-year court case that ultimately proved unsuccessful but laid a foundation for the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. Justice Postponed Is Justice Denied: Lucile Bluford and the Campaign for Educational Equality opens Saturday, January 31, 2015.
The exhibit, which runs through May 31, 2015, also examines Bluford's life and career from ninth-grade reporter at Lincoln High School to her 70-year career with The Call.
She was born in North Carolina, moved to Kansas City at a young age, and discovered her love for journalism at Lincoln High. Bluford attended the University of Kansas, where she wrote for the University Daily Kansan, graduated and worked briefly at two other newspapers before joining The Call.
With backing from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, she applied to the University of Missouri's graduate school and was turned down - 11 times - on the basis of her race. She filed suit in 1939 only to meet a series of defeats through 1942, but arguments and precedents from her case and others helped lead to Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
Bluford - for whom the Library's L.H. Bluford Branch is named - became 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. She died at age 91 in 2003, and is buried in Kansas CIty's Forest Hills Cemetery.
Admission to the exhibit is free. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th and Baltimore.