Schwartz 2

Bestselling Missouri Mammals Book Celebrates Third Edition

Schwartz 2Beginning as a series of forty-seven abstracts of species published in the Missouri Conservationist from July 1953 to September 1957, The Wild Mammals of Missouri has a long, rich history. Naturalists Charles W. Schwartz and Elizabeth R. Schwartz compiled the text and detailed illustrations from their original fieldwork and observations, as well as several other sources.

The University of Missouri Press released the first edition of the book in 1959 as the third book of the original books published by the Press; it was printed in Kansas City. It was jointly published with the Missouri Conservation Commission, as the Commission wanted a reference like this for a long time.

For nearly 60 years this book has been regarded as the definitive guide to the identification of these animals. Charles Schwartz’s technically accurate drawings capture the spirit of his subjects. Many researchers and college classes have used this text and led to its popularity. More than just a taxonomy guide, however, this book also describes the mammalian relationships to each other and to human and concerns of ecology. Management concepts and economic considerations also varied over this span of half a century.

This book went through six printings before the Schwartz family revised it in 1981. Two other revisions followed, one in 2001, and most recently, the third revised edition appeared in 2016.

Larry R. Gale, Director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, wrote this in the 1981 foreword:

“During the past twenty-one years, this scientific yet popular publication by Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz has been widely acclaimed as the definitive work on its subject. The book has been adopted as a standard text by many universities and colleges, and it has become a frequently cited reference for mammal research. Sustained sales over the years prove it is equally popular with nonprofessionals wanting to know more about wild animals.”

Each edition has stayed current with habitats, increased numbers of species, and nomenclature changes through the years. The fields of social communication and behavior added further research to the first revision. The number of mammals in Missouri described in the book has increased from 63 species in 1959 to 72 in 2016.

Even though both of these conservationists have died (Charles in 1991 and Elizabeth in 2013), they left an invaluable mark in their field. The authors won national and international recognition for their films of the mid-20th century.

“Only this collaboration of wildlife biologist, artist, photographer, and writer could have made this book possible,” wrote William E. Towell, Director of the Missouri Conservation Commission, in the 1959 foreword.


Fall Harvest is Here: Books on Agriculture and Farming in Missouri

Corn and soybean farmers in Missouri are enjoying near-record yields in their fall harvest this year. As these producers store their crops or haul them directly to market, today we highlight our excellent memoirs, biographies, and rural writers of Missouri farmers.

hines-wilder-coverLaura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist: Writings from the Ozarks
Edited by Stephen W. Hines

Before Laura Ingalls Wilder found fame with her Little House books, she made a name for herself with short nonfiction pieces in magazines and newspapers. Read today, these pieces offer insight into her development as a writer and depict farm life in the Ozarks—and also show us a different Laura Ingalls Wilder from the woman we have come to know.

This volume collects essays by Wilder that originally appeared in the Missouri Ruralist between 1911 and 1924. Building on the initial compilation of these articles under the title Little House in the Ozarks, this revised edition marks a more comprehensive collection by adding forty-two additional Ruralist articles and restoring passages previously omitted from other articles.

“These writings provide a unique window into the thoughts and writing of Laura Ingalls Wilder, showing a side of her that many are unaware of.”—John E. Miller, author of Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder

snow-from-missouri-coverFrom Missouri: An American Farmer Looks Back
By Thad Snow, edited by Bonnie Stepenoff

After years of subjecting the editors of St. Louis newspapers to eloquent letters on subjects as diverse as floods, tariffs, and mules, Thad Snow published his memoir From Missouri in his mid-seventies in 1954. He was barely retired from farming for more than half a century, mostly in the Missouri Bootheel, or “Swampeast Missouri,” as he called it. Now back in print with a new introduction by historian Bonnie Stepenoff, these sketches of a life, a region, and an era will delight readers new to this distinctive American voice as well as readers already familiar with this masterpiece of the American Midwest.

This unique and honest series of personal essays expresses the thoughts of a farmer, a hunter, a husband, a father and grandfather, a man with a soft spot for mules and dogs and all kinds of people. Snow’s prose reveals much about a way of life in the region during the first half of the twentieth century, as well as the social and political events that affected the entire nation. Whether arguing that a good stock dog should be left alone to do its work, explaining the process of making swampland suitable for agriculture, or putting forth his case for world peace, Snow’s ideas have a special authenticity because they did not come from an ivory tower or a think tank—they came From Missouri.

“Today, more than five decades after it was [first] published, From Missouri remains one of the best explanations I have ever read about how the land and landscape of a region shaped its people and determined their history. . . . It is time for a new generation of Americans to hear what Snow had to say. The issues he addressed in From Missouri are timeless; his thoughtful comments about and analysis of them are inspiring.”—Gary R. Kremer, coauthor of A History of Missouri, Volume 4: 1875 to 1919

Hilty cov comps.inddDirt, Sweat, and Diesel: A Family Farm in the Twenty-first Century
By Steven L. Hilty

This book provides readers a glimpse into life on a modern Missouri farm where a variety of grains, grass seed, corn, and cattle are produced.

All of the conversations, events, and descriptions are drawn from the author’s experience working alongside and observing this father and son family farm operation during the course of a year.

“The great strengths of this book are the author’s knowledge and understanding of rural life, including the weather, land, animals, technology, and people of the Midwest. There is a remarkable attention to detail.”—Bonnie Stepenoff, Professor Emerita of History, Southeast Missouri State University, author of Big Spring Autumn

Read more about Dirt, Sweat, and Diesel on the blog here.

hamilton-deep-river-coverDeep River: A Memoir of a Missouri Farm
By David Hamilton

Deep River uncovers the layers of history—both personal and regional—that have accumulated on a river-bottom farm in west-central Missouri. This land was part of a late frontier, passed over, then developed through the middle of the last century as the author’s father and uncle cleared a portion of it and established their farm.

Deep River is composed of four sections, each exploring aspects of the farm and its neighborhood. While the family story remains central to each, slavery and the Civil War in the nineteenth century and Native American history in the centuries before that become major themes as well. The resulting portrait is both personal memoir and informal history, brought up from layers of time, the compound of which forms an emblematic American story.

“This magnificently written account of a time now gone is far more than just a slice of Missouri’s rural history. . . . In its best sections (and there are many), it catches the tone and mood of a place in a manner worthy of a modern-day Thoreau.”—Bruce Clayton

hauser-my-farm-mississippi-missouri-coverMy Farm on the Mississippi: The Story of a German in Missouri, 1945-1948
By Heinrich Hauser, Translated & Introduction by Curt A. Poulton

My Farm on the Mississippi is a delightful and informative memoir by the German writer Heinrich Hauser about his experiences while living in Perry County in southeast Missouri from 1945 to 1948. Born in Berlin in 1901, Hauser was an accomplished journalist and novelist who had published at least two dozen books by the time he fled Germany for the United States in 1939. In 1945, after an unsuccessful stint as a farmer in upper New York, a brief stay in Chicago, and the publication of three more books, Hauser purchased three hundred acres along the Mississippi near the little town of Wittenberg, Missouri (which succumbed to the Great Flood of 1993).

Hauser’s remarkable ability to portray day-to-day life with detailed observations, along with his knack for sharing his sense of wonder at the natural surroundings, makes this work a great adventure story, as well as an important resource for Missouri folklore and for scholars pursuing local and American immigrant history.

My Farm on the Mississippi is the work of a gifted writer. It provides insight into a place and time that we know little about. I don’t know of any better descriptions of farmwork, its challenges and its rewards, or of the benevolence and malevolence of the natural world anywhere.”—Adolf E. Schroeder

lauters-more-farmers-wife-coverMore than a Farmer’s Wife: Voices of American Farm Women, 1910-1960
By Amy Mattson Lauters

Farm women have often been seen by their city sisters as victims of patriarchy, overwork, and poverty, aptly depicted by the “Migrant Mother” image from the Great Depression. Amy Mattson Lauters now goes directly to the women themselves to get the other side of the story of American farm life: that many women survived and even thrived on farms through the adversity of the Great Depression and beyond.

More than a Farmer’s Wife spans fifty years of farm life to reveal that many women saw farming as an opportunity to be full partners with their husbands and considered themselves businesswomen central to the success of their farms. Lauters shows that the farm woman was fundamental to the farming industry—the backbone of the family business and the manager of the farm home—as she explores the role of media in the farm woman’s everyday life and discusses the construction of the American farm woman in those publications.

young-cultivating-cooperation-coverCultivating Cooperation: A History of the Missouri Farmers Association
By Raymond A. Young

As one of the most successful farm organizations in the United States, the Missouri Farmers Association brought together farm clubs from all over the state to serve as the central body through which farmer-owned businesses could compete with investor-owned businesses. In Cultivating Cooperation, Raymond A. Young follows the fascinating history of MFA from its grass-roots beginning in a schoolhouse in 1914 through the upheaval that led to only the second leadership change in the organization’s history in 1979.

The late Raymond A. Young started his lifelong career with the Missouri Farmers Association in 1933 as an accountant for the Producers Produce Company in Springfield. In 1938 he moved to Columbia, were he served as President of MFA Oil for forty-two years, spending the last thirteen years of his career as Executive Vice President of MFA.

dean-opportunity-lost-coverAn Opportunity Lost: The Truman Administration and the Farm Policy Debate
By Virgil W. Dean

Harry Truman’s “Fair Deal” domestic policy agenda promised to continue Roosevelt’s New Deal and, with some modification for postwar realities, to guide America into a new age of peace and prosperity. Agricultural policy was a cornerstone of this program, as it attempted to transform the farm program from the parity price foundation crafted by FDR to one based on income support through direct payment to farmers.

Virgil W. Dean takes a new look at the much-heralded “Brannan Plan” to examine in detail the farm policy dilemma and Truman’s quest for a long-range agricultural program that would confront the problems of an industry in the midst of a technological revolution—one in which regional and commodity-based differences only served to complicate any solution.

“An Opportunity Lost is well-written, solidly researched, and cogently argued. . . . Dean has given astute, perceptive analysis to an often tangled and always difficult aspect of domestic policy, the farm program.”—R. Douglas Hurt

parker-portrait-missouri-coverA Portrait of Missouri, 1935-1943: Photographs from the Farm Security Administration
By Paul E. Parker

Among FDR’s most important New Deal programs were those created to address rural poverty and a depressed farm economy. In 1935, several such programs were consolidated into the Resettlement Administration, which in 1937 became the Farm Security Administration (FSA). For the next six years, the FSA stayed at the center of a turbulent battle over the shift from regional to national authority. One tool the FSA used to defend itself against political attacks was its Photographic Section, under the direction of Roy Stryker.

Stryker, who was once referred to as “the press agent of the underprivileged,” directed a team of photographers who documented American life in the thirties, capturing images of the old ways while seeking to justify a new agricultural order. The photos they took were used to build up popular support for the FSA and the New Deal. Seven of these photographers traveled in Missouri and produced a collection of over 1,250 pictures. Drawing on those photographs, A Portrait of Missouri, 1935-1943 chronicles the photographers’ work, the programs they sought to promote, and slices of life they captured in Missouri during this time.

“The photographs are engrossing. They show the efforts of the Farm Security Administration to illustrate the problems of the 1930s and the results of the programs designed by the New Deal to address these problems. More than simply being a vehicle of persuasion, however, these photographs document the way Missourians lived during the period.”—Lawrence Christensen


The 98th Anniversary of the Siege of the Lost Battalion

“It was the most poignant incident of the American part in the World War, and its biggest newspaper story.”—Thomas M. Johnson, “The Lost Battalion,” American Magazine, November, 1929


“The pocket” where the Lost Battalion was trapped

From October 2nd through 7th, 1918, three battalions from the U. S. Army’s Seventy-seventh Division were trapped by German forces in a pocket of the Argonne Forest. The men’s courage under siege in the midst of rifle, machine-gun, mortar and artillery fire with nothing to eat and with water dangerous to obtain, has gone down in American history. In Five Days in Ocotber, Robert Ferrell presents previously unavailable material, providing a fuller understanding of the story behind the Lost Battalion.


“The pocket,” October, 1918

The causes of the entrapment were several, including command failures and tactical errors. The men had been sent ahead of the main division line without attention to flanks, and because of this misstep, they were surrounded by the Germans. Thus began a siege that took the lives of about 200 men.

After enduring two days of attacks from the Germans, American artillery fire hit the area. It started just beyond the Lost Battalion’s location and succeeded in damaging the German position. However, it shifted directly to the pocket, forcing the soldiers to hunker down and wait it out. By the time the fire ended, an hour and a half after it started, 30 men had been killed or wounded and many trees and bushes had been flattened, exposing their position.


Cher Ami

In the midst of the shelling, Major Whittlesey sent his last carrier pigeon, Cher Ami, with the message:

We are along the road parallel 276.4. Our artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it. – Whittlesey, Major, 308th

The story is that Cher Ami, shot by enemy fire, managed to deliver its message, but died soon after. It was later stuffed and exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

Read more fascinating and informative details about this WW I episode in Farrell’s book, available at Amazon and Indiebound, in addition to our website.

How Does a Family Farm Really Work?

Hilty_Dirt_Sweat_72.jpgThose who depend on the land for their living, who roll their dice with weather and pestilence and uncertain commodity prices, see rural life differently than those who don’t. —from the introduction

As each generation goes by in American life, fewer people have the experience (or grandpa’s memory) of working and living on a family farm. Much is romanticized in our thoughts about country living, and much information in pop culture about agriculture is simply incorrect.

In this new book by Steven L. Hilty, readers go on a one-year journey through the seasons with a father-son family farm team, their families, and their hired hand. Set in western Missouri, you will laugh at the funny incidents (nothing is held back) and will feel for the livestock they take care of. Go into the heart of the rural Midwest lifestyle of cattle and row crops with Dirt, Sweat, and Diesel: A Family Farm in the Twenty-first Century.

This book presents a view of the complexities of farm life that few urban dwellers ever see: a “get-your-hands-dirty” look at keeping farm machinery repaired, keeping cattle healthy, struggling with planting and harvest, violent weather, new technology and cycles of birth and death. Above all, it is a chronicle of success and of a way of life integral to our economy and nation.

The great strengths of this book are the author’s knowledge and understanding of rural life, including the weather, land, animals, technology, and people of the Midwest. There is a remarkable attention to detail. —Bonnie Stepenoff, Professor Emerita of History, Southeast Missouri State University, author of Big Spring Autumn

Want to ride along in trucks, tractors, and combines for a few hours? Pick up this book today for an intimate portrait of life on a modern family farm.

Steve Hilty is an author and naturalist whose work has focused on birds and natural history. For more than twenty years he has made his home in Overland Park, Kansas, where he maintains a strong interest in agriculture and family farms.


American Tragedian: The Life of Edwin Booth

Daniel J. Watermeier’s American Tragedian has just been selected as a finalist for the George Freedley Memorial Award for an exemplary work in the field of theater or performance. American Tragedian examines the life of Edwin Booth (1833-1893), widely considered to be the preeminent tragic actor of his era, and the greatest-ever American Shakespearean actor. His achievements, however, are often overshadowed by his brother’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln. (In a weird coincidence, Edwin Booth saved Lincoln’s son, Robert, from serious injury or death when he slipped between a moving train and the platform.)

This biography focuses on Booth the actor, the producer-director, and the champion of the “classical” acting tradition. Booth’s histrionic “genius” and his extraordinary popular success were affected by a number of off-stage buffetings, including the unexpected loss of his actor-father, Lincoln’s assassination, the premature death of two wives, and the failure of his theater and the resulting bankruptcy. In American Tragedian, Booth’s behind-the-scenes life is intertwined with and balanced against his on-stage work.

The scholarship that underpins this work is first-rate, but scholarship alone does not a good biography make. The biographer has to get on the wave-length of his subject and gain a kind of intimacy with that personality, as this one does. It was gratifying that my reading of this book confirmed what theatre historians have been buzzing about for years: Watermeier’s will be the definitive Booth biography.—Felicia Hardison Londré, author of History of World Theater: From the English Restoration to the Present

The 71st Anniversary of the Bombing of Nagasaki and How One Man Tried to Avoid the War

On the 71st anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, the city’s mayor Tomihisa Taue urged the international community to use its “collective wisdom” to rid the world of nuclear weapons, according to the Japan Times. Through diplomacy, we can try to work for a peaceful future. But could war with Japan have been avoided all together? Diplomat Saburo Kurusu desperately tried to achieve just that.

On December 7, 1941, the course of U.S. history changed forever with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Three weeks prior, Japanese Special Envoy to the United States Saburo Kurusu visited Washington in an attempt to further peace talks between Japan and America and spare his country the loss he knew would occur if a war began. But as he reported, “Working for peace is not as simple as starting a war.” For more than seventy years, many have unfairly viewed Kurusu and his visit as part of the Pearl Harbor plot. Editors J. Garry Clifford and Masako R. Okura seek to dispel this myth with their edition of Kurusu’s memoir, The Desperate Diplomat.

Kurusu published his personal memoir in 1952, in Japanese, describing his efforts to prevent war between the two nations, his total lack of knowledge regarding the Pearl Harbor attack, and what “might have been” had he been successful in his endeavor for peace, while offering an exclusive perspective on the Japanese reaction to the attack. However, the information contained in his memoir was unavailable except to those fluent in Japanese. With the discovery of Kurusu’s own English memoir, his story can finally be told to a wider audience. Clifford and Okura have used both the Japanese and English memoirs and added an introduction and annotations to Kurusu’s story, making The Desperate Diplomat an essential look at an event that remains controversial in the history of both nations.

A unique and invaluable study of American-Japanese diplomatic history. The authors present a compelling explanation of how Americans—both the general public and critical members of the Roosevelt administration—perceived Kurusu. The authors also highlight Kurusu’s relevance in the run-up to war and do much to bring him out from behind Admiral Nomura’s shadow, while also presenting a compelling portrait of familiar figures including Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The use of often overlooked but essential sources such as the Bernard Baruch and Arthur Krock papers make this an impressive volume.— Sidney Pash, author of The Currents of War: A New History of American-Japanese Relations, 1899–1941


White Male Working Class Frustration

“Joe is simultaneously racist, homophobic, sexist, a gun lover, patriotic, a World War II veteran, a provider and a dangerously frustrated and violent individual.”

The current presidential election features working class frustration with the current political and economic climate.   This anger emerges from a number of directions – the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the economic meltdown of 2008-2009, the predominance of the one percent over real power, a rapidly changing demography of the United States, and  the ability of African Americans, Latino Americans and gay and lesbians to hold political office and corporate jobs with visibility.   Political commentators often remark about the newness of this phenomenon.    The under-recognized classic American film Joe (1970) illustrates that this is not the case.  Joe emerged as the openness and freedom of the counterculture became awash with drugs and degradation and as the sixties closed with the Manson murders, millions of new addicts and the loss of faith in a new and liberated system.  Peter Boyle’s masterful performance as the title character, a working class, family man who has had it with all of the changes he witnesses is highly representative of the current political backlash.  Joe is simultaneously racist, homophobic, sexist, a gun lover, patriotic, a World War II veteran, a provider and a dangerously frustrated and violent individual.   He is attempting to make sense of a country he does not understand in which he feels he gains no respect.  His children are never home, his job is monotonous, and he finds it difficult to make friends in his middle age.  Joe exists during a time of great social and economic change and he finds that his old rules of morality, female subservience and nationalism no longer apply.  Joe is a film well worth taking another look at; it is emblematic of a recurring pattern of white male working class frustration.

Guest blogger Gerald R. Butters, Jr. writes about American history and popular culture. For more of his writing, see his website at


Conversations Never Held

“Within the last five years, a disturbing phenomenon has taken place in regard to popular culture and it has greatly influenced conversation among friends, colleagues and family members.”

Gerald R. Butters, Jr. is today’s guest blogger. He is a Professor of History at Aurora University and his research and publications examine the intersection of race and gender in American popular culture.  He is the author of Black Manhood on the Silent Screen and two books published by the University of Missouri Press: From Sweetback to Super Fly: Race and Film Audiences in Chicago’s Loop, 1970-1975 and Banned in Kansas: Motion Picture Censorship, 1915-1966.

We simply don’t watch anything in common anymore. The continued proliferation of cable channels, streaming platforms, content producers and ways of watching such content means that, much like the millions of us walking down the street with our earbuds on, listening to our own individual tunes, we simply watch programs when and how we want them and don’t have those necessary discussions about our favorite shows or those we loathe.   In fact, this phenomenon has stifled conversation.  I am currently now trying to avoid friends who have seen season four of Orange is the New Black (I know someone dies).  I avoided posting anything for months about the conclusion of The Good Wife out of respect for my friend Michelle who needed to catch up.  Go to a social function and try to find anyone who watches the same television shows that you do.  Other than an occasional Games of Thrones, it is nearly impossible.  I have friends who have been their own individualized fan base of Mr. Robot, Penny Dreadful, Bones etc. – and they have no one to talk about their programs with.  There is a sad desperation in their eyes.  I have been begged by friends and family members to start watching their shows just so they can have someone to discuss things with.  I have used this same guilt with my spouse in regard to The Wire.   Those of us old enough can remember when we had three or four television channels and we were forced out of lack of choice to discuss what happened last night on All in the Family, Designing Women or Hill Street Blues.  I miss those days.

To read more of Butters’ writing, check out his books, From Sweetback to Super Fly: Race and Film Audiences in Chicago’s Loop, 1970-1975 and Banned in Kansas: Motion Picture Censorship, 1915-1966.



Beneath the Mushroom Cloud

“The basic idea of peace is to have some understanding of other people’s pain.”

Harry S. Truman’s grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, tells the moving story of his trip to Japan to attend the memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the anniversary of the dropping of the bombs. Listen on The Moth.

Robert James Maddox discusses the contentious decision to bomb Japan in Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism. From the introduction:

maddox“The use of atomic bombs against Japan at the end of World War II remains one of the most controversial issues in American history. Those who defend the decision claim that it ended a bloody war that would have become far bloodier had the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands proved necessary. Although the primary consideration was saving American lives, according to this view, millions of Japanese also were spared the catastrophic  effects of an invasion coupled with round-the-clock conventional bombing, naval bombardment, and blockade. Those who have become known as ‘Hiroshima revisionists’ contend that this version of events is nothing more than a postwar myth concocted by Harry S. Truman and his advisers to make more palatable what was basically a political rather than a military decision.”

For more on Harry S. Truman, the University of Missouri Press has an extensive collection of books on his life and presidency on our website.


A Civil Rights Hero Who Disappeared

Author James Endersby discusses Lloyd Gaines and the Fight to End Segregation in an interview with Scott Jaschik from Inside Higher Ed:

Many remember James Meredith, the first black person to enroll at the University of Mississippi. But Lloyd Gaines is not a name widely known or taught, though he was the plaintiff in a suit that led to a 1938 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that Missouri had to provide, in the state, an opportunity for black students to go to law school. Until then, Missouri had a policy of paying for black students like Gaines to attend law school out of state, rather than at the all-white University of Missouri law school. But while the Supreme Court ruling was in some sense a victory for black students, it also was a defeat. The court said Missouri could keep the law school for whites only as long as it created a comparable one for black students. The state opted for this option (although the new law school was hardly comparable). Gaines might have challenged the fairness of the state’s new version of separate but equal, but he disappeared, literally, and no one knows for sure what happened to him.

As a result, he is largely absent from the focus of historians studying desegregation. A new book, Lloyd Gaines and the Fight to End Segregation (University of Missouri Press), seeks to tell the story of Gaines and his Supreme Court case. The authors are James W. Endersby, associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri at Columbia, and William T. Horner, a teaching professor of political science at Mizzou.

Endersby responded via email to questions about the book.

Q: The Supreme Court decision in the case upheld separate but equal (without really requiring equal). Is that why it has largely been ignored?

A: The Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education had such a huge effect on educational equality that we often neglect the historical significance of the earlier cases. We correctly remember Brown as a landmark decision, but Gaines was the first in a series of Supreme Court decisions, mostly involving segregation in higher education, that led to Brown. The court’s decision in Gaines demanded that educational facilities, if separate, must be equal. Subsequent court decisions expanded this need for and definition of equality. The court’s decision in Brown ultimately decided that educational facilities, if separate, are inherently unequal.

Q: What do you see as the real significance of the Gaines decision?

A: The Supreme Court in Gaines made the first application of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause to emphasize equality of education. Moreover, equal protection was a constitutional protection guaranteed to the individual by the (state) government. The University of Missouri law school was open only to white students. Black students, according to Missouri’s position, could attend law school at various institutions in adjacent states. In Gaines, the Supreme Court declared that if Missouri provided legal education to white students, it also had to provide an equivalent legal education to black students within the state. Once the Supreme Court applied the constitutional standard that a state must guarantee equality to all individuals, the end of racial segregation was near. The decision cracked the judicial doctrine of separate but equal and racial segregation that would crumble in subsequent court decisions.

Q: Had Lloyd Gaines lived, do you think there would have been a successful challenge to whether the program at Lincoln University (created by the state to comply with the Supreme Court decision) was truly comparable to that of the University of Missouri?

A: First let me point out that we don’t know what happened to Gaines! Had Gaines pursued his case, it is quite possible that the Supreme Court under Charles Evan Hughes may have moved more quickly on issues of educational equality. Certainly, Charles Houston and the attorneys for the NAACP thought that the challenge would be successful in federal court. The majority on the Hughes court seemed adamant that educational opportunities provided by the state for blacks and whites should be equal. Moreover, the strongest defenders of racial segregation would soon leave the court. If Houston and the NAACP could get a second hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court, it is difficult to imagine anything other than that the small and poorly funded black-only Lincoln law school provided equal educational opportunities compared to the white-only Missouri law school. It may be important that to recall that the decision in Brown involved two decisions, the first to demand educational equality and the second to enforce it.

Q: What do you think happened to Gaines?

A: When people today first learn of Gaines’s disappearance, they often assume first that he was a victim of racial violence. That certainly is a real possibility. Those within the NAACP and the black press, however, assumed that Lloyd Gaines grew weary of the litigation and just walked away. The anecdotal evidence supports the view of the NAACP. But it is also puzzling how Gaines, a person of such prominence within the black community, never resurfaced in later years. If there was no foul play, we assume Gaines would renew contact with family and friends ultimately. So we are left with a conundrum. There has been no criminal investigation of his disappearance because there is no evidence of a crime. Unless someone comes forward with new and solid information, Gaines’s disappearance is likely to remain an unsolved mystery.

Q: Race remains an issue at the University of Missouri and elsewhere in higher education. What are the lessons of the Gaines story for today?

A: One lesson is that equality of opportunity in education remains an important goal, but an elusive one. Most of us today agree on the importance of equal educational opportunities for individuals from all groups, but we also hold competing values on a host of other issues. Educational equality may still conflict with other political and social norms. Charles Houston taught us that we must have goals to achieve over the long term, but we must often seek short-term success. Houston, Redmond, Marshall and the others intended to eliminate segregation and ensure racial equality. But they also understood that equality in education and other venues involved a series of steps in the right direction.

The Supreme Court would not overturn the separate-but-equal doctrine fully and immediately. But constant pressure from a series of judicial decisions would lead to that ultimately. Another lesson from the experience of Gaines and his attorneys is that willingness to pursue freedom and equality involves a tremendous personal cost. To stand up for rights and freedoms involves a significant emotional toll. Few are willing to make the sacrifice for the greater good.