MU honored three African-American trailblazers Friday afternoon, dedicating residence halls for Lucile Bluford and George C. Brooks and an atrium for Gus T. Ridgel.
Lucile Bluford was denied enrollment into the Missouri School of Journalism’s graduate program in 1939 because the university didn’t accept people of color. Bluford filed a lawsuit against MU, and the Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1941. MU then shut down the graduate program, keeping Bluford from ever enrolling. MU later awarded her an honorary doctorate degree in 1989 for her leadership and determination in the fight for equal rights.
A new MU residential hall, formerly known as New Hall, is now called Bluford Hall.
Brooks was the director of financial aid at MU, where he worked for 17 years. The residence hall across from Bluford Hall was named Brooks Hall in his honor.
Ridgel, the first African-American graduate from MU, was also honored today as the atrium inside Bluford Hall was formally dedicated in his honor. Ridgel earned his master’s degree in economics in 1951, finishing the two-year program after just one. His legacy also lives on at MU through the Gus T. Ridgel Fellowship, which is awarded to graduate students from underrepresented minority groups.
The dedication ceremony was held in the courtyard between the newly-named Bluford and Brooks halls. The event began at 2 p.m. with tours of the halls led by MU Department of Residential Life staff.
Just before the official remarks began, members of the Legion of Black Collegians and the Four Front Marginalized Student Council marched in to show support for the dedication.
“We must love and support one another, we have nothing to lose but our chains,” the crowd of about 100 people chanted outside the residence halls.
MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright kicked off the ceremony with a warm welcome to the sea of black and gold outside the residence halls, which was made up of students, alumni, staff members and families of the honorees who came to support the dedication.
Nathan Dare, Residence Hall Association president, shared the story of Lucile Bluford. Kelsie Wilkins, president of the Legion of Black Collegions, followed with Gus T. Ridgel’s story.
“Brooks and Bluford were trendsetters, they were trailblazers, and our university would not be the same without them,” Dare said.
The last speaker at the event was LeAnn Stroup, the director of Visitor Relations, who spoke about the impact that the George C. Brooks scholarship had on her as a recipient during her time as a student at MU.