University of Missouri Renames Black Culture Center
The University of Missouri has agreed to honor two former Missourians, largely because they never attended the school. The university system’s board of curators, meeting in Rolla early last month, voted 9-0 to change the name of the Black Culture Center on the Columbia campus. The new name: the Lloyd L. Gaines-Marian O’Fallon Oldham Black Culture Center. Both Gaines and Oldham were denied admission to the university because they were Black.
“This decision you have made is of historic proportions as it begins to close another chapter in the struggle for justice and equality,” Malaika Horne, a curator from St. Louis, told the rest of the board.
“Both Gaines and Oldham were talented, inspirational visionaries willing to pay the price for what they believe in,” Horne says.
Gaines attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City, graduating with honors. In 1936, he sued the University of Missouri after it rejected his application to law school. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the school either to admit him or to set up a separate law school for Blacks. But Gaines never got to see the order become reality. He disappeared in 1939 and was not seen again.
Oldham was rejected years later and instead attended Harris-Stowe in St. Louis. She later got her master’s from the University of Michigan. She then became a teacher and counselor in St. Louis Public Schools, a civil rights activist and a member of various charitable boards in St. Louis. In 1977, Oldham became the University of Missouri’s first Black female curator, and she served for eight years. The university’s St. Louis campus later gave her an honorary doctorate and set up a scholarship in her name. She died in 1994 at 66.
The Columbia campus opened its first Black culture center in 1972. The center that would memorialize Oldham and Gaines is the campus’ third, an 11,000-square-foot, one-story building with spaces for lounging, studying, cooking, performances and other cultural events. It was completed three years ago for $2.4 million.
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