Kansas City's finest, Lucile Bluford
On this date in 1911 Lucile Bluford was born. She was an African American news publisher and businesswoman.
Her name became known outside the city when she sued the University of Missouri for denying her entry to its graduate journalism program. Lincoln University, the historically black university, didn’t have a journalism program so MU was ordered to admit her. Unwilling to do so, the university suspended offering graduate journalism courses in order to keep her from attending. Years later, she would receive the University of Missouri’s esteemed Honor Medal and an honorary doctorate.
Bluford joined the paper as a reporter in 1932 after graduating from the University of Kansas, the second black student to major in journalism there. Best known for her more than 50-year journalism career, Bluford became editor in 1955 following the death of Chester A. Franklin, the publisher and editor of the Call newspaper. During her time at the Call, Bluford was a leader in the Kansas City civil rights movement and made the paper one of national importance to the African-American community through journalism as a whole. The Call was a whole different journalistic approach to the world, a fresh view to read.
Bluford was committed to keeping the Call alive in the city's 18th and Vine area after the area’s heyday and before its recent resurgence. When everything went down in the commerce district, there was only one business that remained open, The Kansas City Call.
Bluford took the responsibility of being a leader in the African-American community seriously. When Jesse Jackson was running for president, he came to Kansas City to do a campaign speech at the Municipal Auditorium. Bluford was in the upper balcony and Jackson had finished speaking and began asking for campaign contributions. She stood up saying, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute.” People saw her, and so everybody got quiet. She’s up in the balcony and she leans over and says, “Now Reverend Jackson, how long did you know you were coming to Kansas City before you came?” He said, ‘Well, it was a campaign stop.’ She said, ‘Is there any reason you didn’t contact the Kansas City Call?’ You could hear a pin drop. Jackson said, “Well, no ma’am. I apologize.’ And she said, ‘Well, you ought to apologize.” There were 8,000 people there and she just dressed him down.
Lucile Bluford, 91, editor and publisher of the Kansas City Call and a champion of the civil rights movement died on June 13, 2003 in Kansas City.
Reference Library of Black America Volumes 1 through 5
Edited by Mpho Mabunda
Copyright 1998, Gale Research, Detroit, MI
Today in American History