Honoring Trailblazing Alumna and Educator

Conella Coulter Brown was one of the first Black students to graduate from Kansas City’s university

Conella Coulter Brown (1925-2021) was one of the first Black students to integrate the newly desegregated University of Kansas City, the precursor to the University of Missouri — Kansas City. She applied after reading in a story in the Kansas City Call that UKC had opened admission to students of color.

While Coulter Brown did not feel as if high school had prepared her for college, she persevered and in 1949 was accepted by UKC. In an interview with the UMKC Alumni Association in 2015, she reminisced about her time at the university and noted that she felt accepted by her peers and ran for secretary of the student council during her time as a student.

“I campaigned all over the university. I had a microphone and talked in the cafeteria. I talked everywhere. I was elected the Liberal Arts Treasurer by a 90% white student body."

In 1953 she was one of the first Black students to graduate from UKC, and the first person in her family to graduate from college.

“I walked across that stage and received that degree, and it was a joy. I felt like I was somebody.”

Following graduation Coulter Brown applied but wasn’t hired to teach in schools in Kansas City because of her race. She moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where she had a long and successful career in education, retiring in 1980 as assistant superintendent of the Cleveland Public Schools. She was the only Black woman serving as an assistant superintendent of a major school district in Ohio at the time.

UMKC awarded Coulter Brown an UMKC Alumni Achievement Award in 1964, the same year she became an assistant principal. In 2015, UMKC Chancellor Emeritus Leo Morton recognized Brown as a trailblazer and awarded her a UMKC diploma, honoring her as “an original Roo.”

“When we talk about trailblazers and thanking those who paved the way – you are at the top of our list,” Morton said at the ceremony.

Coulter Brown returned to Kansas City after her retirement and founded the Student Aid Mentoring Ministry through the Community fellowship Church of Jesus Christ to help students of color overcome challenges.

Published: Jan 19, 2022
Posted In: Our People

Top Stories