The legacy of a family often is known only to the members of the family. If the family is diligent they will pass the stories of both the hardships and joys of the family members to their children and grandchildren to ensure future generations will remember.
The impact a family has often is not limited to the direct descendents but can be found in friends and perhaps individuals not known to the immediate family.
This is certainly true for the descendents of Caleb Lindsey and his wife Lucinda, both slaves, who were finally permitted to legally marry in 1868.
Caleb Lindsey, born in 1840, was a slave in Georgetown, north of Sedalia. In 1863, he fought as an Union soldier in the 62nd United States Colored Infantry.
That fact is important for a number of historical reasons, but one that may not be known to many area residents is that Lindsey, through his service in the 62nd Colored Infantry, became one of the founding members, along with members of the 65th Colored Infantry, of what was to become Lincoln University in Jefferson City.
The great-great grandchildren of Lindsey were honored Oct. 8 at Lincoln University’s 150th Homecoming.
“I cannot tell you how proud we are as a family to be recognized by the University in such a manner,” Wayne Kitchen said while sitting with two of his brothers and a nephew last Sunday in the Democrat office. “It was a clear blue surprise when I received the email asking our family to be the Grand Marshals because so many of our family members have attended Lincoln.”
‘Harvard of the Midwest’
Wayne Kitchen graduated in 1970 from Lincoln University, adding that perhaps as many as 25 family members have attended the college including their aunt Dorothy Kitchen, who was married to long-time Sedalia resident Virgil Kitchen.
Their parents, as well as several aunts and uncles, also attended Lincoln. They said there are many reasons for their decision to do so.
“Lincoln was important and continues to be so for a number of reasons,” Dr. Herbert Kitchen explained. “First it was a black college that afforded the opportunity for us to receive a quality education.
“It has been called the Harvard of the Midwest because so many of the professors who taught and teach there received their Ph.Ds from Ivy League schools,” he added. “It gave us the opportunity to get a better life.”
Herbert Kitchen added that Lincoln was one of the few schools that provided opportunities for black students to receive a post-secondary degree in any field.
He added that his parents and other family members “instilled” upon he and his brothers that an education would provide opportunities for the future.
According to the Lincoln University website, in 1870, the college began to receive aid from the state of Missouri for teacher training, a field many members of the Kitchen family have entered.
Herbert Kitchen noted that several teachers of the former Lincoln-Hubbard School in Sedalia received their degrees from Lincoln University as well, including their aunt, Dorothy Kitchen, who taught at Lincoln-Hubbard for a number of years before serving as the school’s principal.
“Dorothy Kitchen and so many of the other teachers at Lincoln-Hubbard were graduates of Lincoln University and they instilled and taught those of us who attended school there the benefits of an education from Lincoln,” Herbert Kitchen said. “Our parents said we really had no choice other than to attend Lincoln.
“Since I was born I always went to functions at Lincoln from games and homecomings or to visit my older siblings when they were in school there,” he added. “I always knew, because I saw first-hand, that that was where I wanted to go.”
Herbert Kitchen graduated from Lincoln in 1988. His older brother, Douglas Kitchen, attended the college almost 20 years prior, from 1963 to 1965 during the height of the civil rights unrest in America and the turmoil of the Vietnam War.
“I was raised in a segregated Sedalia,” Douglas Kitchen said. “But in 1959 I can remember playing little league games with whites, so when I finally attend Smith-Cotton those games were a God-given blessing to me.
“The first time I stepped foot in Smith-Cotton all of the people I played ball with were so kind and welcoming to me,” he added. “They said to me, ‘Doug come over here and talk to us;’ my eyes lit up like silver dollars because they made me feel welcome.”
Douglas Kitchen added that even though he was welcomed when he began school at Smith-Cotton, there was not a large black presence in Sedalia growing up other than on the north side.
“I can’t say that I was a smart kid growing up,” Douglas Kitchen commented. “But I can say that I became a bright, educated man because of the education I received at Lincoln University.
“I would not be the man that I am today without the education I received there and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity,” he added. “I could never repay them for what they gave me.”
Douglas Kitchen left Lincoln before receiving his degree to serve in the Navy from 1964 to 1968. He graduated from California State, Hayward, after his time in the service.
The three men all spoke of the gratitude the Kitchen family has for Lincoln University, but they feel that gratitude extends beyond their family to the students who attended Lincoln-Hubbard and Lincoln University.
“For all of us it was great to get started at Lincoln,” Herbert Kitchen commented. “It was inspiring to see blacks being involved in all aspects of the university from the president on down, which gave us a foundation for what was to come.
“Lincoln University has been a part of my family for over 85 years,” he added. “The legacy is one of education, helping others and giving back to others.”
That legacy has already continued to the next generation of the Kitchen family. Douglas Kitchen’s son, Lamaine Kitchen, attended the Homecoming celebration with his father and family members.
“It was a great honor to be a part of this historic contribution to black history,” Lamaine Kitchen said. “Especially knowing that my family legacy will live forever in history.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.