KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Armed with her pen and always fighting for a bigger purpose – Lucile Harris Bluford helped change the landscape of Kansas City.
At the age of seven, Bluford moved with her family to Kansas City. Her father was an instructor at Lincoln High School.
She would later attend Lincoln High School, which is where she discovered her love for journalism.
“She was very active in the newspaper,” said Jeremy Douin, manager of the Missouri Valley Special Collection at the Kansas City Public Library. “She wrote a lot of articles and poetry and was class valedictorian in 1928.”
Bluford received her journalism degree from the University of Kansas. After she graduated in 1931, she worked for a paper in Atlanta, but eventually made her way back to Kansas City.
She worked for the Kansas City American and then the Kansas City Call. She became the managing editor of The Call in 1938.
“She loved the distribution of news to the Black community, always, but she wanted to make sure the majority community got the message about the good as well as the bad,” said Joanne Collins, a former Kansas City, Missouri Council member.
Bluford often challenged the status quo. She sued the University of Missouri for denying her admission to their journalism graduate program because of her skin color.
The university now has a residence hall named after her.
She also fought to make sure Black people were given equal rights.
“One example came in 1964. She lobbied and fought for the Public Accommodation Ordinance, which outlawed segregation in public places,” Drouin said.
Collins served on the city council from 1974 to 1990. Collins and Bluford interacted on a regular basis. The two would often disagree politically, but Collins said Bluford always looked to be fair.
“She went all over the community to get the information. You didn’t have to deliver it to her and then if she got one side of it she would always say, ‘Collins, you know there is more than one side,'” the former councilwoman recalled.
Her memories are fond.
“She’s challenged me and that’s why I loved her,” Collins said.
Bluford’s impact carried through the area for years. In 1987, the Kansas City Public Library started on the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, located on 31st Street and Prospect Avenue.
Mary Roberson is now the senior programming and service manager at the Kansas City Public Library Central branch. She previously managed the Bluford Branch and checked out the library’s first book to Lucile Bluford in 1988.
“Just pure excitement, I guess you would say. Just pure joy to do that to have that opportunity,” Roberson said.
Bluford would win the Kansas Citian of the year award in 2002. Even after her passing in 2003, Most would agree Bluford’s work and words still resonate today.
“She was able to just leave a legacy that still grows,” Roberson said.
“Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas City, Kansas; the state of Missouri and the state of Kansas are truly blessed to have Lucile Bluford come our way and provide the leadership that she did with the Kansas City Call,” Collins said.
Lucile Bluford Day is celebrated across Missouri on July 1.