Lucile Bluford

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Lucile Harris Bluford (July 1, 1911 Salisbury, North Carolina - June 13, 2003, Kansas City, Missouri) was a famous journalist and opponent of segregation in America's education system, and after whom the Lucile H. Bluford Branch of the Kansas City Public Library is named.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Lucile Bluford was born in Salisbury, North Carolina, to John Henry Bluford and Viola Harris Bluford.[3] Bluford's father was a professor at the state's Agricultural and Technical College.[4] In 1921 when Lucile was 10, and upon the death of his mother, John Bluford accepted a position teaching science at Lincoln High School in Kansas City, Missouri.[5][6] Lucile attended Wendell Phillips Elementary and Lincoln High School. Thus, at a young age Lucile Bluford was exposed to segregated education, as Missouri was a Jim Crow state that adhered to "separate but equal" doctrine.[5]


Ms. Bluford was encouraged in her interest in journalism by a high school English teacher, Miss Trussie Smothers, at the segregated Lincoln High School. She worked on the school newspaper and yearbook, and after school, at the African American newspaper, the Kansas City Call.[7] She was the valedictorian of her 1928 graduating class. After high school, she attended the University of Kansas School of Journalism, graduating in 1932, with honors. Bluford was the second black student[3] to ever study at the University of Kansas School of Journalism, and served as night editor and telegraph editor on the school's student newspaper. After graduating, Bluford went to work for The Daily World in Atlanta, reneging on her promise to work at The Call.[8] Upon returning to Kansas City she went to work for the black owned weekly, The American. Chester A Franklin, founder of The Call, contacted her and told her he had an opening for her at his newspaper.[9] She began working for The Kansas City Call in 1932.[10] She stayed at The Call for the entirety of her career, rising through the ranks until she was the second editor and publisher of the Kansas City Call newspaper. After Franklin's death in 1955, Bluford became part-owner with Franklin's widow, Ada Crogman Franklin, and continued to work at the newspaper until her death.

In 1939, Bluford applied to the Master of Journalism program at the renowned Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, Missouri and was accepted. However, during the ensuing enrollment process, she was dismissed because of her race. At the time Bluford attempted to enroll, African-American students were expected to attend all-black Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, 30 miles away from the Columbia, Missouri university campus. Lincoln University did not have a journalism program.

On October 13, 1939, Bluford made the first of eleven attempts to enter the University of Missouri's program. On October 13, 1939 with the help of Charles Houston of the NAACP, Bluford filed the first of several lawsuits against the University.[11] By 1941 her case had made it to the Missouri Supreme Court but she lost. Citing low attendance because of World War II, the University of Missouri subsequently closed its Journalism Graduate program. Nonetheless, the case prompted the opening of a School of Journalism at Lincoln University.[12]


Bluford has been called the "Matriarch"[13] and the "Conscience"[14] of Kansas City. The University of Missouri honored Lucile Bluford with an honorary doctorate degree in 1989. The University also named Bluford residence hall in her honor in 2018.[15] The State of Missouri recognizes July 1 as Lucile Bluford day to honor her contributions to journalism and to the state.[16] In 2002 Bluford received the "Kansas Citian of the Year' award from the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.[17] Bluford also received a Distinguished Service Award from the NAACP for whom she served on its board and the board of its magazine The Crisis

Honors and Awards[18][edit]

1961 Curator's Award in Journalism from Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri
1973 Served as Pulitzer Prize Journalism person
1975 Distinguished Service Award from NAACP in N.Y
1976 Roy Wilkins Award from Gary, Indiana


  1. ^ "Bluford blazed trail in civil rights: Former editor of newspaper dead at 91." Archived 2015-11-22 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Extensive resources at Missouri State Historical Society web page "Famous Missourians: Lucile H. Bluford"
  3. ^ a b "Lucile H. Bluford". KC Call. July 21, 1988.
  4. ^ Jones, Vonnie V. (1989). Show Me Missouri Women: Selected Biographies. Kirksville, Missouri: The Thomas Jefferson University Press. pp. 140–141.
  5. ^ a b "Lucile Bluford - Historic Missourians - The State Historical Society of Missouri". Retrieved 2019-02-06.
  6. ^ "Lucile H. Bluford". KC History. July 15, 2019.
  7. ^ Beveridge, Mary (July 15, 2019). "Lucile H. Bluford: Journalist 1911-2003". KC History.
  8. ^ Lucile H. Bluford: Obituary. Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library
  9. ^ Lucile H. Bluford: Obituary. Special Collection, Kansas City Public Library
  10. ^ "UMKC Libraries | Lucile H. Bluford Collection". Retrieved 2019-02-08.
  11. ^ "Celebrating Lucile Bluford". Mizzou News. July 15, 2019.
  12. ^ Beveridge, Mary (July 15, 2019). "Lucile H. Bluford: Journalist, 1911-2003". KC History.
  14. ^ "UMKC Libraries | Lucile H. Bluford Collection". Retrieved 2021-01-12.
  15. ^ "Lucile Bluford". Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity. 2018-04-17. Retrieved 2019-02-08.
  16. ^ "Lucile Bluford Day". Kansas City Public Library. Retrieved 2019-02-08.
  17. ^ Lucile H. Bluford, Obituary. Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.
  18. ^ ""Lucile H. Bluford"". KC Call. July 21, 1988.

External links[edit]