Education makes a child unfit for slavery.

— Frederick Douglass

On Aug. 4, Columbia lost one of the great ladies of its community. Her name was Stella Johnson. She was born in 1934. She was a longtime resident of Columbia. She died at home at the age of 86.

Miss Stella, as most of us referred to her, was a lady of class and elegance. She had a powerful sense of self wherever she was. Whether sitting in a meeting among other Christian people, or lovingly chastising a young child, Miss Stella let you know that she believed you were somebody, and that she expected the best out of you.

Stella Johnson was dedicated to the education of Columbia’s youth, particularly Black youth.

She was an educator who understood that obtaining an education was not merely about acquiring a degree. Education for Miss Stella was about obtaining a well-rounded understanding of the world we live in and incorporating a historical perspective from which an individual could construct a positive future.

She particularly wanted Black children to understand their history both as a Black person and as a Black person in Columbia. She taught that racism was real, but not insurmountable.

Miss Stella was not a woman who sought out confrontation, but she did not shy away from it either. If it meant standing for the right, she would confront a student, a parent, a teacher or an administrator. She would fight tooth and nail for a student who needed defending. She loved Black children not just with words, but with deeds.

We shall all miss Miss Stella. She did so much for the Columbia community. I do not know what her conversation was with God when God called her home.

What I do know is that God said to her : “Well done thy good and faithful servant. Well done!”


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

Recommended for you