The Kansas City Call employees in front of the newspaper’s offices with Lucile Bluford at center, ca. 1930s. (Image courtesy The Kansas City Call)
Born in North Carolina in 1911, Lucile Bluford moved with her family to Kansas City when she was 7. She would become one of its most accomplished and beloved citizens.
She fell in love with journalism while working on the newspaper and yearbook at Lincoln High School, where she graduated first in her class in 1928. With access to the University of Missouri and its famed journalism school blocked by the school’s refusal to admit African-Americans, Bluford attended the University of Kansas, graduated with honors, and launched a reporting and editing career that eventually took her to The Call (where she’d worked summers during college).
She continued to push back against MU’s segregation policy. Backed by the NAACP, Bluford repeatedly applied for admission to its graduate program in journalism and filed several lawsuits. Missouri’s Supreme Court finally ruled in her favor in 1941, ordering the university to admit her because there was no equivalent program at all-Black Lincoln University. Mizzou subsequently closed its graduate program, claiming professors and students were being siphoned away by World War II.
Bluford never took a class at MU, but her fight helped nudge the school toward integration. Mizzou was forced to establish a journalism school for African-American students at Lincoln, and admitted its first Black student in 1950. The university would honor Bluford decades later, the journalism program awarding her its Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism in 1984 and the school conferring an honorary doctorate in the humanities in 1989.
Bluford went on to a 69-year career with The Call, moving from reporter to city editor to managing editor and finally editor, owner, and publisher. She made the weekly newspaper a prominent voice for African-Americans in the city and a force in the fight against discrimination.
The Library named its branch on Prospect Avenue for her in 1988. In 2002, a year before she died at age 91, the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce named her Kansas Citian of the Year.
Bluford Branch Exhibit
An exhibit featuring photographs and other information about Ms. Bluford's contributions to journalism and civil rights is located inside the Library's Lucile H. Bluford Branch at 3050 Prospect Avenue.
The lobby of the Bluford Branch features an exhibit about Lucile Bluford's work in civil rights and journalism.
A Leading Figure in Kansas City Black History
Lucile Bluford is among the notable Kansas Citians profiled in the award-winning Kansas City Black History website, a project dedicated to exploring African American cultures and community in our region. Read her biography profile and explore the digital resource at kcblackhistory.org.
ARCHIVED SIGNATURE EVENT
Lucile Bluford: Her National Closeup
July 11, 2018
In this Library program from 2018, Sheila Brooks examined Bluford’s life and pioneering work in a discussion of her book Lucile H. Bluford and the Kansas City Call: Activist Voice for Social Justice, co-authored with Howard University’s Clint C. Wilson II. The Kansas City-born Brooks, a former television reporter, anchor, news director, and documentary producer, recounted Bluford’s fight for admission into the University of Missouri’s graduate journalism program and assessed her dual role as a journalist and advocate for the women’s and civil rights movements.
Listen to Event Audio | Event Details | About the Book
Lucile Bluford Coloring Sheet
Lucile Bluford is among the individuals featured in Coloring Kansas City: Women Who Made History, a coloring book produced by the Library's Missouri Valley Special Collections highlighting notable women from our region's past.
About the coloring book Download the Lucile Bluford coloring sheet
MORE About Lucile Bluford
Digital Court Documents
The Library's historical website The Pendergast Years: Kansas City in the Jazz Age and Great Depression has a digitized collection of documents from the National Archives at Kansas City, Missouri, related to the lawsuits that Lucile Bluford pursued against S.W. Canada, the registrar of the University of Missouri, for repeatedly denying her admission to the university. Browse the scanned documents and read some of the contextual descriptions of the materials online.
Confronting Injustice: Lucile Bluford and the Kansas City Call, 1939-1942
The Pendergast Years site also features an original article exploring how Bluford used her role as managing editor of The Call to draw attention to her efforts to enroll in journalism classes in the University of Missouri in pursuit of civil rights for African-Americans. An excerpt: