The University of Missouri School of Law Library is working to provide digital access to some of our special collections that would otherwise be largely hidden. Some materials contained in these collections do still retain copyright and have only been made available digitally by permission of the copyright owner. If you have questions about using or reproducing an image or work, please contact Cynthia Bassett or Needra Jackson.
This project seeks to illuminate Lloyd Gaines' life, document his pioneering pursuit of true equal rights to a legal education, and memorialize the long overdue, posthumous recognition of his personal sacrifice in the advancement of civil rights.
The University of Missouri School of Law Library is pleased to make these resources freely available for scholars, researchers and others to advance their knowledge and understanding of the struggle for civil rights in Missouri in the early twentieth century.
Lloyd Lionel Gaines applied to the University of Missouri School of Law in 1936. In spite of an outstanding scholastic record, Gaines was denied admission based solely on the grounds that Missouri's Constitution called for "separate education of the races." By state law, Missouri would have been required to pay for Gaines to attend the universities in Iowa, Kansas or Nebraska, but Gaines was determined to fight for the right to attend law school in his own state. He sought legal assistance from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which had been working systematically to overturn the ignominious precedent of "separate but equal" established in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. Together, they challenged the University of Missouri's admissions policies. In 1938, Gaines won his case before the United States Supreme Court in State of Missouri ex rel Gaines v. Canada, paving the way for a series of cases that would lead to the decision in Brown v. Board of Education that outlawed segregation in public education. In March 1939, only three months after his Supreme Court victory, Lloyd Gaines was last seen in Chicago, IL. He disappeared at age 28 with his promise of attending law school in Missouri unfulfilled. Lloyd Gaines was never to be seen or heard from again.
The digital collection is made up of family letters that shed light on the economic difficulties that Lloyd and his family faced in working to provide him with an advanced education; family photographs; case materials; sections of the Missouri constitutions and laws that pertain to the education of African-Americans in Missouri; dissertations by scholars studying the Gaines case and the African-American educational experience in Missouri; newspaper articles that demonstrate the thoughts of students and others through the years regarding de-segregation and the Gaines case; and the efforts made by the University of Missouri and the School of Law to recognize Lloyd Gaines' contributions to history.