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OHRC to host Black History Month presentation Feb. 27

The response of Missouri college presidents to desegregation in 1950 will be the topic of a Black History Month presentation Feb. 27 hosted by the Ozarks Heritage Research Center (OHRC) at Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP).
The presentation by Larry Gragg, a Curators' Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, will take place at 6:00 p.m. in the Garnett Library,  304 W. Trish Knight St. Refreshments will be provided, organizers said. It is being underwritten by the Missouri Humanities Council.
Gragg's presentation is entitled "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." Drawing upon letters and memos between the five state college presidents, the presidents at the University of Missouri and Lincoln University, and the dean of the Missouri School of Mines (now Missouri S&T), Gragg will talk about the "behind the scenes" discussions among the presidents prior to and following Cole County Circuit Court Judge Sam C. Blair's declaratory judgment in 1950 that the Missouri School of Mines and the University of Missouri must admit three African American students who wanted to pursue degrees not offered at Lincoln University, the state's only college for black students, according to information posted on the State Historical Society of Missouri's website.
Collectively, the presidents' responses varied from caution to opposition to desegregation. Only Sherman Scruggs, the president at Lincoln University, called upon the state to open the doors of all public colleges to students regardless of race. In large part, the timid responses of these presidents reflected the reality that they led colleges in a deeply segregated state. Ultimately, this will be a talk about how challenging it was in 1950 to desegregate higher education prior to the 1954 Brown decision.
Gragg taught at Missouri S&T from 1977 to 2021. He was chair of the history and political science department for 17 years. He has written 10 books and over 40 articles on subjects ranging from 17th century Puritans to the development of Las Vegas. Most recently, he has published "Forged in Gold, Missouri S&T's First 150 Years" and an article on the desegregation of the Missouri School of Mines and the University of Missouri in 1950 in the Missouri Historical Review.
Gragg holds degrees from Missouri State University and the University of Missouri. He has received more than 20 teaching awards, including the University of Missouri President's Award for Outstanding Teaching and the Missouri Governor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.
For more information about the presentation, contact Rebekah McKinney at 417-255-7949 or
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