Faces of Progress
African American Tigers who helped build a more inclusive Mizzou
Throughout the University of Missouri's history, countless Tigers have contributed to diversity at Mizzou, shattering glass ceilings, breaking down cultural barriers and working for social justice and equality. As we celebrate Black History Month at Mizzou, meet a few African American Tigers who have made a difference. Learn more from the Chancellor's Diversity Initiative about about Multicultural Mizzou »
When Kansas City journalist Lucile Bluford was denied the right to register for graduate journalism classes in 1939, she sued the university. She eventually won, but program changes during World War II thwarted her plans. MU awarded the Kansas City Call editor and civil rights activist an honorary doctorate in 1989.
Gus T. Ridgel
Gus T. Ridgel was among nine black students admitted to MU in fall 1950 and was the first black student to earn a graduate degree from MU. He earned a master’s degree in economics, with honors, in 1951, completing the program in only one year. He earned a doctorate in 1996.
Al Abram Jr.
In 1956 Al Abram Jr. from St. Louis became the first African American to receive an athletic scholarship to Mizzou for basketball. He was inducted into the MU Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004.
In 1971 Jill Young, a senior majoring in fashion merchandising, became the first black student to be elected homecoming queen at Mizzou.
In 1969 history professor Arvarh Strickland became Mizzou’s first black faculty member. He taught the first black-history course at Mizzou and led the establishment of a black-studies minor before retiring in 1996. In 2007 MU renamed the General Classrooms Building Arvarh E. Strickland Hall.
Muriel Battle, MA ’76, M Ed ’80, PhD ’83, began teaching in Columbia Public Schools in the 1950s and helped lead school desegregation in the district. She was the first black principal in the city’s integrated schools and the first female assistant superintendent for secondary education. Columbia’s newest high school is named in her honor.
Mike Middleton, BA ’68, JD ’71, helped found the Legion of Black Collegians as an undergraduate student before becoming the first black student to enroll in and then graduate from the MU School of Law. After a career with the federal government, he became the School of Law’s first black faculty member in 1985. He now serves as Mizzou’s deputy chancellor.
In 2003 Elson Floyd became the first black president of the University of Missouri System. He served in the position until 2007.