Gloria Newton Logsdon talked back to her mother only once — and, no surprise, it was during a shopping trip. But the disagreement wasn’t over dress patterns and heel height. It was the early 1950s, and Logsdon and her mother had to leave a department store to find a restroom that would permit them access.
“Why do you let white people treat us like this?” asked an indignant Logsdon. “And when she told me that there was nothing she could do about it, I insisted that she could and should do something about it. I told her that when I got big, I would do something about it.”
As a part of the University of Missouri’s celebration of Black History Month 2015, Mizzou alumni Gloria and Jack Logsdon returned to campus Feb. 18 to speak about their work as activists in Columbia and Kansas City in the 1960s.
Although Jack had attended an all-white high school in St. Louis, his family was relatively progressive. He got involved in race relations at MU when he befriended the only black person in class, Mal West, who eventually asked Jack to attend a meeting of the Columbia chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
Jack and Gloria met in 1961 at a CORE meeting. By the time Gloria arrived at MU (she completed two years at a local community college in Kansas City before transferring), she had established herself as an activist.
“During the 1958–59 school year, the direct action phase of the civil rights movement had finally begun in my hometown, and I was finally able to make good on that long-ago promise to my mother,” Gloria said.
In Kansas City, Gloria served as the president of the local NAACP Youth Council and was active in the state and national NAACP. She led protests at restaurants, movie theaters and amusement parks. Her involvement led to hiring of the first black bus driver in Kansas City and to the desegregation of several restaurants.
Jack and his fellow CORE members focused much of their efforts on picketing eating establishments, including one in Columbia, that didn’t serve black people.
During the Q-and-A portion of the event, Julie Middleton, director of organizational development for MU Extension who was involved in the civil rights movement when she was a student at MU in the late 1960s and early 1970s, wondered, in light of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, what advice the Logsdons had for students.
“I’m old-fashioned,” Gloria said. “I really do still believe in nonviolent direct action. I believe in protest, but I’m uncomfortable with some of the things that happened as a result of Ferguson.”
After reading a Langston Hughes’ poem, she said, “We don’t have to be out there with our fists up. It’s heads up. It’s using your brain. Education is the one thing they can’t take away from you. If you get an education, you can go anywhere, you can do whatever you want to. Nobody can stop you. Just keep on keeping on.”
— Kelsey Allen
Black History Month 2015
During the month of February, the University of Missouri celebrated Black History Month with a series of events. This year’s theme was “We Are Somebody: Reclaiming Human and Civil Rights.” Among the events were a discussion about the relationship between African-Americans and the police, a conversation about African-American contributions to American music and an open dialogue about what it means to be black in 2015.
The final event of the year is the Feb. 26–27 Missouri Law Review Symposium, “Policing, Protesting and Perceptions: A Critical Examination of the Events in Ferguson,” at Hulston Hall. The free event is open to the public.