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Desegregation in higher education is the subject of a program in West Plains this month.

Books on a library shelf
Image by StockSnap
Books on a library shelf

The program by retired Missouri S&T professor, Larry Gragg, will be held on February 27 at the West Plains library.

February is Black History Month – a time when people celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans and reflect on the past. A program this month in West Plains will give people the opportunity to learn about the history of desegregation in higher education.

On February 27th, Larry Gragg, a retired professor of history at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, will present “What are you going to do if a negro student presents himself for registration in the fall?: Missouri college presidents respond to demands for desegregation in 1950.”

The presentation is about the discussions between Missouri college presidents prior to and following the declaration by Cole County Circuit Court Judge, Sam C. Blair in 1950. He declared that the Missouri School of Mines, now Missouri S&T, and the University of Missouri were to admit three African American students who wanted to pursue degrees that were not offered at Lincoln University, Missouri’s only college for Black students at the time.

Gragg will talk about how the presidents were cautious and opposed the desegregation suggestion. The president at Lincoln University at the time was Sherman Scruggs who advocated for opening all public universities in Missouri to anyone, regardless of race.

Ultimately, the presentation will show how challenging it was in 1950 to desegregate higher education prior to the 1954 Brown decision.

It’s hosted by theOzarks Heritage Research Center, which is a group focused on preserving the region’s history and culture. The event will start at 6pm in the Garnett Library at 304 W. Trish Knight St.