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University of Missouri

Battling for Peace

An MU documentary about Columbia’s Eliot Battle shows the power of peace.

Eliot Battle

Eliot Battle was a leader in integrating Columbia’s schools in the 1960s. Photo by Rachel Coward.

In an age of growing coarseness in public life, Eliot Battle stands as a testament to the power of leadership by example.

The first African-American staff member at Columbia’s then all-white Hickman High School, Battle, M Ed ’60, LLD ’09, was a leader in integrating the city’s schools in the 1960s.

Battle and his family suffered emotional wounds during those tumultuous days when black colleagues called him a traitor to his race or a white neighbor shot and killed the family dog, but Battle always turned the other cheek.

Adopting a “change from within” approach, he advocated behind the scenes for social justice and modeled the racial acceptance he wanted the community to adopt.

“I want Eliot to be an example for generations to come,” says Juanamaria Cordones-Cook, a filmmaker and professor of romance languages and literatures at MU.

Cordones-Cook made Battle: Change from Within, with Julie Middleton, BS Ed ’71, EdSp ’92, PhD ’94, MU Extension professional and director of organizational development; Barbara Williamson, associate teaching professor; and Michael Hicks, BES ’84, a film and television producer for MU Extension.

The MU Extension documentary has been shown to schools and civic groups all over Columbia and in three film festivals, winning the 2013 Kansas City FilmFest‘s Best Heartland Feature Documentary Award.