Black History Month in KCPS: Cloteele T. Raspberry


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 20, 2020: Born in Texas, Cloteele T. Raspberry (1910-1994) moved to Kansas City at a young age and became a fashion designer and mentor to young women interested in the profession.

Raspberry attended Wendell Phillips Elementary School, graduated in 1927 from Lincoln High School (where she stood out in her sewing class), and two decades later earned an associate’s degree from Isabelle Boldin’s School of Fashion Design. While doing sewing in her home, she taught night classes at the Brooklyn Center and local YWCA.

Later, as a self-employed dress designer, Raspberry joined the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers and traveled nationwide each year – to cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Chicago – to showcase her work at designer dresses. She was chosen as a NAFAD junior leader, guiding girls and young women ages 14-18 who were members of the national organization. They staged their own annual fashion show, with proceeds going toward their “advanced training.”

Raspberry also was a 25-year member of Kansas City’s Urban League Guild and served as a Sunday school teacher for more than 35 years at Paseo Baptist Church. She died at age 83 in March 1994, leaving her husband William, daughter Villa, and a Kansas City legacy of more than 70 years.