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 19, 2020: Hazel Browne Williams (1907-1986), the first full-time African American professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, exemplified academic excellence throughout her career as an educator.
A graduate of Lincoln High School in Kansas City, Williams studied English at the University of Kansas, where she overcame racism and indifference from professors and was elected to the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society. After graduating in 1927, she earned two master’s degrees – one in English from KU, the second in guidance counseling from Columbia University.
She began her career in education at Louisville Municipal College in 1932, teaching English and German. She went on to earn her Ph.D. from New York University, and worked as a Fulbright exchange teacher in Vienna, Austria.
She would become best known for her tenure at UMKC, starting as associate professor of education in 1958 and rising two years later to full professor. Upon retiring in 1976, Williams became the first African American awarded emeritus status by the school. She also was active in a number of organizations and institutions including the NAACP, YWCA, and Mattie Rhodes Center.