For Black History Month, we are profiling prominent African Americans who made a significant and historic impact on Kansas City Public Schools. We want to give credit and our gratitude to the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City and LINC for providing the images and information for this series.
Kansas City, February 12, 2020: As a renowned lecturer, club-woman, and suffragist, Ida Bowman Becks (1880-1953) led the local African American community in the pursuit of equality. Becks was born in Armstrong, Mo., and showed promise as a student at Lincoln High School, where she graduated as class valedictorian in 1899. She then attended the Chicago School of Elocution, using that training to gain national attention as a public speaker.
In 1908, she moved back to Kansas City and worked as a field representative for the Florence Crittenton Home and the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention. Becks became active in several charities and women’s clubs, and she was instrumental in the establishment of the Yates YWCA and the Kansas City Urban League.
Her speeches in favor of women’s suffrage, given at numerous churches and clubs, were praised for their eloquence. Audience members described Becks as fearless and persuasive, and her participation in public debates furthered her oratorical reputation. She went on to become a delegate to the 1921 NAACP convention in Detroit, a board member of Wheatley-Provident Hospital, and organizer and chair of the Kansas City chapter of the Negro Women’s National Republican League.