KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a few short months when Chorus Davis graduates from Lincoln College Preparatory Academy in Kansas City, Missouri, she’ll realize the dream of her great-grandfather, who wanted to attend the school but couldn’t.
Lyle Davis, Sr. was born in 1909 and grew up in Carthage, Missouri, about two hours south of Kansas City. At the time, schools in Missouri were segregated and there were only about 15 high schools for Black students. No such high school existed in Carthage. So Davis, Sr.’s education ended after ninth grade even though he dreamed of attending Lincoln High School (what is now Lincoln College Preparatory Academy) in Kansas City.
Not only is the school named after President Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but it became a magnet for Black culture before the civil rights movement.
“It also had a public library inside of Lincoln High School,” said Derald Davis, Davis, Sr.’s grandson. “It also had a junior college inside of Lincoln. So it really was the education hub for the community.”
In his 20s, Davis, Sr. moved to Kansas City so his children could pursue the education he never had a chance to receive.
“I really appreciate that he placed such a high value on education,” said Davis' grandson.
By the time Derald Davis’ father, Lyle Davis, Jr., reached high school, the Brown v. Board of Education ruling meant schools were integrated. So Davis, Jr. was one of the first Black students to attend his neighborhood school: Central High School. Derald Davis attended Raytown South High School.
But both father and son ended up in the hallways of Lincoln Prep. Davis, Jr. taught for Kansas City Public Schools for 26 years, retiring from Lincoln.
Davis, the district’s current assistant superintendent of equity, inclusion and innovation, was an administrator at Lincoln for years.
“Because of the great hope of education that Lincoln provided, it was a magnet to this area. And it was so for my grandfather as well,” Davis said.
It was also a magnet for Davis’ daughter, Chorus. The All-State basketball player with a 4.0 GPA received a scholarship to attend Missouri S&T next year where she’ll study architectural engineering.
“For my daughter to soon be a graduate of Lincoln High School, I really feel like that is a dream fulfilled,” Davis said.
Davis’ work fulfilling his grandfather’s dream continues at the school district’s central office. In his role as assistant superintendent, he reviews how all programs and policies impact students from all walks of life. He trains teachers on implicit biases and searches for ways to be more inclusive. He said there are lingering effects from the educational policies of his grandfather’s time.
“We’re still trying to tear down those oppressive systems even in 2021,” Davis said.
So the work continues and Lincoln College Preparatory Academy remains a source of pride and inspiration.