MU dedicates buildings to three African-American pioneers of acceptance on campus.

As a part of Homecoming celebrations, MU recognizes the legacy of the historically marginalized African-American community on campus.
The crowd applauds after a speech to dedicate Lucile Bluford and George C. Brooks residence halls along with the Gus. T. Ridgel Atrium on Oct. 19, 2018. Courtesy of Facebook via @MizzouResLife

MU officially dedicated the Lucile Bluford and George C. Brooks residence halls and the Gus. T. Ridgel Atrium with a ceremony in the courtyard between Bluford and Brooks residence halls on Oct. 19.

The event, honoring the three African-American trailblazers who impacted MU’s legacy, occured in conjunction with Homecoming and the 50th anniversary celebration of the Legion of Black Collegians. Bluford, Brooks and Ridgel’s dedication ceremony kicked off with tours of the residence halls and concluded with speeches recognizing the accomplishments of the honorees.

An hour before the official remarks began, the Solidarity Walk, organized by members of Four Front Marginalized Student Council and LBC, made its way across campus to show support for MU’s historically marginalized students.

“This is what democracy looks like,” said the crowd as they marched toward the dedication ceremony.

Chancellor Alexander Cartwright opened the event by acknowledging the hard work of the student leaders and staff who persevered through a four-year process to make the dedication possible. He also introduced the late George C. Brooks and Lucile Bluford’s families who were in attendance.

“Lucile Bluford, Dr. Gus Ridgel, and George C. Brooks all challenged the status quo,” Cartwright said during his address. “Their actions have had a profound impact on our history and their respective legacies have helped Mizzou foster an inclusive environment that challenges us all to strive for excellence.”

The Residence Hall Association’s president Nathan Dare spoke in recognition of Bluford’s legacy. Bluford, a journalist who dedicated 70 years of her life to the prominent black newspaper the Kansas City Call, applied and was accepted to MU’s graduate journalism program in 1939, only to be denied entry after university officials learned that she was a person of color.

Bluford sued the university and in 1941 won her case in the Missouri Supreme Court. However, she was unable to attend MU due to its temporary closure to graduate students during World War II. MU awarded Bluford an honorary doctorate in 1989.

”Seeing these buildings dedicated to Brooks and Bluford is an acknowledgment that our campus doesn’t always do a good enough job of recognizing marginalized groups,” Dare said. “Naming buildings after them is brick and mortar proof that we recognize that they were trendsetters and trailblazers for this university and makes sure that their legacy lives on.”

Kelsie Wilkins, LBC president, shared the story of Dr. Ridgel and his continued impact on the university. Following a lawsuit in 1950 against the university, Ridgel became MU’s first black student to earn a graduate degree. His determination has paved the way for many students of color over the years, Wilkins said.

“I think having these buildings named after people within the black community… and having the history of them placed within the buildings will help students that don’t look like the majority [at MU] understand that there is a home for them here,” Wilkins said. “People have done it before, which means they can do it too and people will continue to thrive in the future.”

The final speaker, LeAnn Stroupe, director of visitor relations and member of the 1989 inaugural class of George C. Brooks Scholars, spoke about the life changing effect the Brooks Scholarship had on her time at MU and continues to have on students of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups to this day.

“As an alumnus looking back on my collegiate experience, I am truly thankful for the opportunities that were afforded to me because I was a Brook scholar,” Stroupe said. “I can honestly say my experience on campus would have been very different.”

The dedication concluded with an announcement by Dare that Bluford and Brooks residence halls had been awarded the Platinum LEED certification, a globally recognized symbol of sustainability in building design.

Edited by Caitlyn Rosen | crosen@themaneater.com

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