Multicultural Mizzou

A Brief Timeline of Social Change and Notable Firsts at the University of Missouri

A Special Note:

The University of Missouri was created by countless men and women, and we are honored to share a few of their stories below. These individuals, however, represent only a portion of those who lived, worked and taught at Mizzou. Unfortunately, many of their contributions have been lost to history. We want to recognize the service of men such as Horace Williams and Harrison Diggs, slaves of former professor William C. Shields and University president W. W. Hudson and later employed as janitors at MU, and the countless unnamed others whose efforts have helped create the university we know today.


Academic Hall was built in 1840 but was destroyed by a fire in 1892. Its iconic columns still stand today on Francis Quadrangle.

The University of Missouri is founded.

The University of Missouri was established in 1839 as the first state university west of the Mississippi River. As was typical of many colleges and universities of this time, Mizzou only admitted white, male students.

Prior to the end of the Civil War in 1865, African Americans had few opportunities to obtain higher educational degrees. In the South, illiteracy was enforced by slavery. In the North, few white colleges welcomed African American students. Only a few colleges designed specifically to serve African Americans existed during this period.


Missouri enacts "separate but equal"
educational laws.

On Jan. 11, 1865, slavery was abolished in Missouri by an ordinance of immediate emancipation, making Missouri the first slave state to emancipate its slaves before the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution later that year. Despite the passing of the 13th Amendment, "Jim Crow" practices in the South (including Missouri) enforced segregation of White and Black citizens. Missouri’s post-war constitution mandated a segregated educational system. In 1866, Lincoln University in Jefferson City was established by troops from the U.S. Colored Infantry to provide secondary and higher education for Missouri's African Americans.


Women are admitted to classes in the
"Normal Department."

In September 1868, 22 women enter the University’s “Normal Department” which later became the College of Education. Sarah Gentry, a member of this class, recalled "many years later that the citizens of the little village of Columbia were 'considerably stirred' by the event."

Source: Marjorie Meredith and Lloyd P. Jorgenson's "Admission of Women to the University of Missouri in 1868", School & Society, Summer 1969, p. 282-285.


Lulie Gillett

Gillett becomes the first woman to graduate from the University of Missouri.

In June 1870 Mary Louise Gillett, known by her friends as "Lulie," graduated from Mizzou. Gillett Hall was named in her honor in September 1967.


Women are admitted to all academic programs.

Finding that women admitted to the normal department "did no harm," the university admitted women to regular University classes "providing always that they were reached in good order, with at least two teachers, one in the front, and one in the rear of the columns as guards."

Grace C. Bibb

Grace Bibb becomes the first female head of a department.

Bibb served as the head of the Normal Department from 1878–1883. She was involved in the St. Louis idealism philosophical movement.


21 international students attend MU.

In 1905 MU international students came from their home countries of Cuba, Russia, Australia, Germany, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, Egypt and the Philippines to study medicine, engineering, agriculture, and law.


The Jewish Student Organization is
founded at MU.

Sixteen students establish the Jewish Student Organization.


The first Jewish fraternity at Mizzou is formed.

Zeta Beta Tau, a national Jewish fraternity, is established at MU with ten student members. It is the first chapter to be established west of the Mississippi River.


Lloyd Gaines

Lloyd Gaines challenges "Separate but Equal" education policies.

Between 1935–1950, approximately 70 African Americans applied and were denied admission to the University of Missouri.

One of these students was Lloyd Gaines of St. Louis who was denied admission to the MU School of Law. The Missouri Constitution at that time required "separate education for the races." Lincoln University in Jefferson City had been established to serve African American students but did not offer a law degree. Rather than admit African American students to MU, the University of Missouri would pay out-of-state tuition for Black applicants to attend college in another state.

Gaines sues the University of Missouri, saying his 14th Amendment rights were violated. The lawsuit is part of a campaign by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to challenge "separate but equal" policies throughout the United States.

Students establish the first Jewish sorority
at Mizzou.

Phi Sigma Sigma, a national Jewish sorority, is founded at 609 Rollins.


U.S. Supreme Court Justices, ca. 1938

Supreme Court rules in favor of Gaines.

On Dec. 12 the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Gaines v. Canada—S. Woodson Canada is the university registrar—that MU must admit Lloyd Gaines to the law school or provide a satisfactory law school equivalent. The court finds that providing no law school for Black students while providing one for White students is discrimination; providing tuition to out-of-state law schools for Black students does not erase that discrimination.


Gaines mysteriously disappears.

In March 1939, three months after the Supreme Court ruling, Gaines stepped out of his Chicago apartment one evening to buy stamps and is never seen or heard from again. His case, which was still pending a ruling on the equivalency of the newly established Lincoln Univeristy law school to the MU law school, was subsequently dismissed.

In his last letter to his family dated March 3, 1939 , he writes

"…I am just a man—not one who has fought and sacrificed to make the case possible; one who is still fighting and sacrificing almost the supreme sacrifice to see that it is a complete and lasting success for thirteen million Negroes—no just another man. Sometimes I wish I were just a plain, ordinary man whose name no one recognized."

Read more about Lloyd Gaines .

Lucile Bluford challenges MU admissions policies.

Lucile Bluford, an African-American journalist from Kansas City, petitioned to enroll in the Graduate School for journalism. She was originally admitted but then denied the ability to register for classes once it was discovered she was Black. Bluford sued the University, and the Missouri Supreme Court ultimately ruled in her favor in 1941. However the Missouri School of Journalism closed its graduate program shortly after the decision due to low student and faculty numbers during World War II.

Bluford later became the editor of the Kansas City Call and an ardent civil rights activist. MU awarded Bluford an honorary doctorate in 1989.


Hillel, the Jewish student center, is
established at MU.


Source: The Missouri Alumnus, March 1949,
p. 4

MU students support admission of Black students.

In February 1949, MU students voted on whether to allow African Americans to attend the University. Of the 10,000 member student body, 6,000 students participated in the election with 70 percent supporting the admission of African Americans to MU.


Gus T. Ridgel (2013). Photo by Nicholas Benner

MU admits its first African American students.

In fall 1950 MU admitted nine African American students. Gus T. Ridgel was one of these students and was also the first African American to earn a graduate degree from MU (a master’s in economics with honors). In an interview with for the Columbia Tribune, Ridgel said he wasn’t allowed to eat at any place off campus; he could only eat at dining halls.

Read more about Gus T. Ridgel in MIZZOU magazine.


Al Abram breaks the color barrier in Mizzou athletics.

Al Abram, Jr. (6’5) from St. Louis is 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.


Norris Stevenson

MU's first Black football players join the team.

Norris Stevenson and Mel West are the first Black football players and football scholarship recipients.

Stevenson, BSEd '61, MEd '63, was inducted into the MU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Norris Stevenson Plaza of Champions on the west side of Memorial Stadium was established to honor his accomplishments at the university.

Mel West

West was inducted into the MU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993. See this Columbia Missourian article for more about West's life.


MU becomes the seven-state educational
center for students with disabilities.

MU becomes the educational center for students with disabilities from a seven state area including Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

Panhellenic Council integrates rush for Jewish and non-Jewish sororities.

Rushees are now able to visit all sorority houses, and sororities will not be restricted as to whom they bid.


Greek life gets first Black fraternity.

Kappa Alpha Psi becomes the first Black fraternity at MU in 1961.


Guyton becomes the first African American at Mizzou to be selected for Mortar Board.

Celestine Guyton Hayes, BS '64, MA '66, was the first African American student at Mizzou to be "tapped" to join Mortar Board, a national senior women's honorary whose members are selected on the basis of outstanding leadership, scholarship, and service.


Students lobby for changes in discriminatory housing practices.

The Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Missouri Student Association (MSA) lobby to get racial identification removed from housing applications. Chancellor John Schwada removes it from housing contracts in 1964; however, off-campus housing practices remained discriminatory.

CORE President Jimmy Rollins and fifteen students and professors marched between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to protest the discriminatory off-campus housing list practices. In 1965 the University finally changed its policy to list off-campus housing that was available for any student regardless of color. This decision had a big impact on all students, not just students of color. Students under 21 no longer had to get permission to live off-campus; and visitors of the opposite sex were allowed in single sex dormitories.

MU's first Black sorority is founded.

Alpha Kappa Alpha becomes the first Black sorority at MU in 1964.

1964-65 cheerleading squad

Cheerleaders—Front Row, from the left: Sharon Pope, Kathy Steed, Sheelah Fishman, Audrey Wilson. Row 2: Jerry Sill, Karen Eilers, Melinda Seymour, Snooky Scott, Dale Harris. Row 3: Lee Prater, Gaylene Miller. (Not pictured—Lenny Komen). Source: Savitar, 1965

Wilson becomes Mizzou's first Black cheerleader.

Audrey Wilson Rowe, BMS '67, joins the Mizzou cheerleading squad, becoming the university's first Black cheerleader in 1964.


MU welcomes 460 international students.

460 international students from 60 different countries are enrolled at Mizzou. The majority of these students were from countries in Asia.

Women's dress policies are abolished.

The Women's Residence Hall Association helped overturn dress regulations within the residence halls. The 1965-66 M Book had advised the following:

"Dresses, suits and sweaters, or skirts and blouses were recommended for class and trips to the library, Student Union and downtown. For picnics and active sports, shorts and slacks were deemed "appropriate." In extremely cold weather (an unwritten rule of students defined that as 11 degrees Fahrenheit or below), slacks could be worn."

Source: Missouri Alumnus, Jan. 1981, p. 18.


MU leads the way in accessibility.

MU was one of only three fully accessible universities for persons with disabilities in the Midwest. By 1967, 158 students with disabilities are enrolled at Mizzou, and fifteen students with severe disabilities had received degrees.


The Legion of Black Collegians is founded to give Black students a voice.

The Legion of Black Collegians (LBC) is established by the men of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. The group forms after confrontations between White and Black students at a football game when, as part of Mizzou tradition, a Confederate flag was waved while the marching band played "Dixie" and the crowd sang along. Black students responded in protest by waving a Black liberation flag during the song. LBC gave Black students a greater voice in campus government, and continues today as the official Black student government at Mizzou.


Arvarh Strickland

MU hires its first Black faculty member.

Arvarh Strickland becomes Mizzou's first African American faculty member. Strickland serves as a professor of history at MU for 27 years, retiring in 1996. During that time he teaches the first Black history course at Mizzou, leads the establishment of a Black studies minor, and advocates for increased opportunities for minority students and faculty. In 2007, MU honors Strickland's legacy by renaming the General Classrooms Building to Arvarh E. Strickland Hall. Read more about Arvarh Strickland here.

The Blackout is founded.

Gerald Boyd launches The Blackout, the first African-American publication on campus. Boyd later goes on to become the first African-American managing editor at the New York Times. Read more about Boyd here

The Legion of Black Collegians
demands changes.

The LBC issues a letter to Chancellor Schwada demanding campus changes that included an increase in Black faculty, the implementation of a Black Studies program, the establishment of a Black culture center, the dedicating of a campus building to a Black leader, periodically promoting Black service staff and employees, actively recruiting Black students, setting aside scholarships and implementing tutoring for Black students, having an annual "Black Week," increasing the number of Black cheerleaders and pom pom girls, and creating an office for the LBC.


Arvarh Strickland's course, The Negro in Twentieth Century America, was one of the most popular in the history department.

The Black Studies Program is established.

Mizzou students have the option to graduate with a minor in Black studies which included such classes as The Negro in Twentieth Century America, Physical Anthropology, Peoples of Africa, Living Races of Man, Contemporary American Speakers, Afro-American Literature, Ethnic Minority Groups in the United States, Racial and Cultural Relations, Political Thought of Black America, The Constitution and Civil Rights, and Afro-American History.

The Black Faculty and Staff Organization
is founded.


The Black Culture House becomes a reality.

The first Black Culture Center, known as the Black Culture House, is established in 1971 at 511 Turner Avenue.

Gay Lib seeks recognition as an official
student organization.

Gay Lib's request was denied in 1972 at which time they filed suit against the University. A court then ruled that the University is required to recognize Gay Lib and the University sought to appeal this decision at the U.S. Supreme Court. MU officially recognized Gay Lib in 1978 after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a rehearing of the case.

McNeal becomes the first African American curator.

Theodore D. McNeal becomes the first African American appointed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators.

The first women's studies course is
taught at Mizzou.

The honors course covers women in literature, the bio-psychological nature of women, the historical role of women in various cultures and the contemporary status of women. Seventeen students enrolled in the course—including one man.

MU students elect
Young as MU's first Black homecoming queen.

Jill Young, a senior majoring in fashion merchandising, becomes the first African American to be elected homecoming queen at Mizzou.


The Status of Women committee is established.

Chancellor Herbert Schooling formed the committee at the urging of senior women faculty to focus on such issues as pay equity, sexual harassment, child care and staff benefits.


The Confederate Rock monument is removed.

The five-and-one-half ton red granite rock, known as the “Confederate Rock” at Ninth Street and Conley Avenue where Speakers Circle is today was moved off campus at the request of the Legion of Black Collegians among others. The inscription on the rock read: “To Honor the Valor and Patriotism of Confederate Soldiers of Boone County.” See additional information about the history of the rock and both sides of the controversy surrounding it.

Legion of Black Collegians rallies for
continued changes.

The Legion of Black Collegians (LBC) held a rally on Francis Quadrangle in response to MU’s failure to address their list of 15 demands submitted in April. 500-700 students showed up for the rally.

The Women's Center opens.

The MU Women’s Center and a campus day care center for student parents opened March 1 in the Gentry Hall basement. The center served as a referral and information source as well as a social gathering place for women.


Students condemn the Ku Klux Klan.

The Missouri Student Association (MSA) passes a bill condemning the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in response to a Columbia Daily Tribune article quoting an MU student stating that the Missouri Klan "Grand Dragon" had authorized a Columbia chapter. The bill allocates $600 to form a task force to deal with racism on campus and to sponsor an anti-racism rally.

O'Fallon Oldham becomes first Black woman to serve on the Board of Curators.

Marion O'Fallon Oldham becomes the first African-American woman to serve on the University of Missouri Board of Curators. O'Fallon Oldham was a teacher and counselor in St. Louis Public Schools and a civil rights activist. The Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center is later named in her honor.

The Women's Studies program is established.

The new interdisciplinary Women's Studies program offers eight courses in literature, communication, history, economics, and physical education during the fall 1977 semester.


Barbara Uehling leads Marching Mizzou as part of a special show welcoming the new chancellor during halftime of the first home football game. (Missouri Alumnus, Nov/Dec. 1978.

Uehling becomes MU's first female chancellor.

Barbara S. Uehling becomes the first female chancellor at MU and the first woman to lead a land-grant university in the United States. From 1978 to 1986, Uehling lead many significant changes on campus, including renovation and new construction projects, implementing a long-range planning process for budgeting, and increasing funding for development.


MU panhellenic sororities accept their first African American pledges.

Lisa Ventour, left, (Delta Phi Epsilon) and Kathy Edwards (Delta Delta Delta) are the first African Americans to be pledged in the 106-year history of sororities on campus.


The Black Theatre Workshop is founded.

The Black Theatre Workshop debuts in May 1982 with a revue: “Rituals: A Celebration of Black Life.” Clyde Ruffin, founder of the workshop and professor of theatre, is the director.


Muslim students find a home at the newly
opened Islamic Center.

The Islamic Center of Central Missouri is completed and serves as the worship home for the MU Muslim Student Organization.


Lenox becomes MU's first Black dean.

Mary Lenox is appointed dean of MU’s School of Library and Informational Science. She is the first African American dean at MU.

Wilson becomes MU's first Black homecoming king.

Anthony Wilson is the first African American student to be elected homecoming king.


Cobbs and King become first Black homecoming king
and queen.

Vivian King and Marvin Cobbs are elected homecoming king and queen. This is the first time both homecoming king and queen are African American students.


Roslyn Plater, a journalism graduate student, tells listeners that Mizzou's Black students are as bright, articulate, well-educated and "red, white and blue" as any students on campus at the rally. Piet van Lier photo / The Missouri Alumnus, May-June 1987, p. 23.

Students rally for increased minority enrollment.

About 250 students and faculty march to Jesse Hall on April 27, 1987 to demand school officials "boost minority enrollment, condemn racism and hold UMC colleges and schools separately accountable for failing to meet black recruiting goals." Black students made up 3.2 percent of the student body (740 out of 22,532 students).


The Legion of Black Collegians protest homecoming traditions.

The Legion of Black Collegians responds to the 1988 homecoming theme, "Show Me Old Mizzou," with their own theme: "Show Me a New Mizzou: Black to the Future."

Anti-apartheid demonstrators build a shanty town on Francis Quadrangle to protest investment of university funds in South Africa. Photo by Pat Davison/ Columbia Missouri, as printed in the Missouri Alumnus, Nov/Dec. 1986, p. 4

UM Curators vote for divestment in companies that operate in South Africa.

In response to student and faculty protests, the Board of Curators voted 5-2 to discontinue investment in South African firms that did not meet equal opportunity standards set by the Sullivan principles. The divestment program is one of the largest for any American university and "is educationally and morally correct," says President C. Peter Magrath.


MU creates vice provost for minority affairs and faculty development.

KC Morrison, professor of political science, becomes the first vice provost for minority affairs and faculty development. From 1989 to 1997, Morrison oversees and implements programs to recruit and retain minority faculty and students, grapples with incidents on campus, introduces multicultural tolerance programs, and reaches out to alumni.

Asian Students in America is founded.

Journalism student Alyson Kim and fellow Mizzou students established the Asian Students in America student organization which later becomes the Asian American Association.

The NAACP student chapter is established.


Students propose a multicultural requirement.

200 students attended a two-hour “town meeting” at Jesse Auditorium to discuss racism. One of the main topics of debate is multiculturalism and whether or not MU should require every student to take at least one multicultural class.


In 1989 students gathered at Speakers Circle near Ellis Library to challenge the University to recognize Martin Luther King's birthday. Photo by the Columbia Missourian

MU officially recognizes the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday for the first time.

In response to student rallies, MU officially recognized the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

The Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO) is established.


Native American students lobby for the return of remains housed in MU collections.

Between 1994 and 1998, Mizzou Native American students and tribes negotiated for the return of the remains of over 1,800 individuals held in the Museum of Art and Archaeology collection. Congress passed the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act in 1990 giving Native Americans control of their ancestors' remains which wound up in many museums. MU agreed to work with the Iowa Tribe to ensure the remains are returned to their respective tribes.


GLB Resource Center co-coordinators Nikole Potulsky, left, and Kendra Smith, 1998. Savitar, 1998

The Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual (GLB) Resource Center opens.

A precursor to today's LGBTQ Resource Center, the GLB center provided resources and support for Mizzou's gay, lesbian, and bisexual student community.


Manuel Pacheco. Photo by Nancy O'Connor

Pacheco becomes the first Latino president of the University of Missouri System.

Manuel T. Pacheco serves as president of the UM System from 1997-2002. Pacheco's notable accomplishments included formalizing the University of Missouri System's strategic plan and founding the Presidential Academic Leadership Institute, a yearlong leadership training program for selected UM administrators.


The new Black Culture Center opens.

In 1998, a new 12,000 square foot facility was opened at 813 Virginia Ave. and was renamed the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center in 2000 to honor Lloyd L. Gaines and Marian O'Fallon Oldham.

The MU Asian Affairs Center opens.

In fall 1998, MU's Asian Affairs Center (AAC) was established to build upon MU’s substantial Asian programs, university and alumni linages and teaching and research connections in Asia to benefit citizens, government entities, and businesses in Missouri and in the region. The establishment of AAC reflects the University’s formal recognition of the educational, cultural, strategic and economic importance of the nations of the Pacific Rim.


MU's first Latina sorority is formed.

Sigma Lambda Gamma, MU’s first Latina-based sorority, is formed.

The Hispanic/Latin American Faculty and Staff Association (HLAFSA) is founded.

HLAFSA later becomes MU Voz Latina, a network for Latino faculty, staff and students.

MU's first Asian-interest sorority is formed.

On May 28, 1999, Mizzou students Yung-Yi Hsieh, Jennifer Kuo, Elizabeth Morris, Kathy Pham and Sarah Wilcox founded the Alpha Phi Gamma colony to support Asian-American women at Mizzou. The Alpha Phi Gamma Eta Chapter was the first Asian-interest sorority in the state of Missouri.


The Pan-Asian Faculty and Staff Association
is founded.


Elson Floyd

Floyd becomes the first Black president of the University of Missouri System.

Elson Floyd becomes the first African-American and 21st president of the UM System. Floyd served as president from 2003-2007.

MU approves the addition of sexual orientation
to the non-discrimination clause.

Equal opportunity is provided to all employees and applicants for employment without discrimination on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, and status as a Vietnam era veteran. This addition provides greater protection for members of the LGBTQ community.


Multiracial categories are added to
admissions applications.

Multiracial categories are added to the Mizzou admissions applications.

The Chancellor's Diversity Initiative (CDI)
is established.

Based on the recommendations from the Campus Climate Study task force, the Chancellor's Diversity Initiative is formed to improve institutional diversity and build a more welcoming campus.

The Cambio Center is founded.

In fall 2004, MU's Cambio Center was established to provide research and outreach on Latinos and changing communities.


Anderson breaks the coaching color barrier.

Mike Anderson becomes Mizzou's first Black permanent head coach. He coaches the men's basketball team from 2006–2011.

The Missouri Student Association votes to remove T.A. Brady's name from the student center.

Now known as the MU Student Center, the building was originally named Brady Commons after T.A. Brady, the first MU professor to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. Several students began a campaign to rename the building after discovering what they believed to be evidence that Brady was homophobic and supported segregation. Others countered that Brady was a product of his time—a time when the Missouri constitution enforced the segregation of schools and when it was commonly believed that homosexuality was a mental illness or criminal offense. After much debate, MSA passed a resolution Dec. 6, 2006 to remove Brady's name from the new student center. Read more about the Brady Commons controversy here


The LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Organization
is founded.


Mizzou students launch the One Mizzou initiative.

After two racially charged incidents, students established One Mizzou, a new initiative to build community inclusiveness on campus.


UM Curators approve domestic
partner benefits.

In June 2013, the Board of Curators unanimously approves the extension of benefits to "sponsored adult dependents," making it possible for employees to obtain health and life insurance coverage for their same-sex partner.

MU's first Asian-interest fraternity is founded.

Phillip Nguyen, Vincent Su, John Hu, Adrian Hong, Josef Huang, Mark Won, and Zhun Xu established Kappa Pi Beta, the first Asian-interest fraternity at MU and in the state of Missouri on Nov. 24, 2013. Read the Columbia Missourian's story about Kappa Pi Beta.


Gender identity and gender expression are added to the nondiscrimination policy

In a 7-1 vote, the Board of Curators agrees to add gender expression and gender identity to the University's nondiscrimination policy on June 19, 2014.


Mizzou offers gender-neutral housing options to students

Residential Life introduces four gender-neutral suites (16 beds) in College Avenue Hall beginning fall 2015, providing a safe space for gender-nonconforming students. The new Gateway Hall will also offer gender-neutral bathrooms.