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20, July 2017

From Amicable Meetings to Brutal Beatings: The 1972 City Jail Sit-In

The evening of July 11, 1972, was typical of a St. Louis summer—until 30 riot squad policemen armed with tear gas, clubs, and dogs stormed the chapel on the sixth floor of the St. Louis City Jail to break up a three-day protest against cold food, lack of hygiene supplies, poor recreation facilities, and inadequate medical care. Read more »

18, July 2017

Rico Zouave: How Clothes Helped Make One Man

Each year clothing designers spend millions to convince us that the right outfit can change our lives. For a Chicago man inspired by the uniforms and skills of North Africa's Zouave (rhymes with suave) soldiers, that turned out to be true. It also left an imprint on St. Louis and changed Civil War history. Read more »

12, July 2017

66 Through St. Louis: Big Chief Roadhouse

In 1920 few people paid much attention to the idea of a “highway business,” but there would soon be a fortune waiting on the roadside. Within the first year of the Federal Highway System’s founding in 1926, the American Automobile Association predicted tourists would drop $3.3 billion along the nation’s roads because they needed places to sleep, eat, and gas up. The experience of getting gas was generally the same everywhere, but eating and sleeping along the road could rapidly devolve into unwanted adventures. Read more »

3, July 2017

“A Stain on the Name of America”: The Nation Reacts

Welcome to our three-part series about the 1917 East St. Louis race riot. This post covers events after the riot. To find out what happened before it and during it, click here.

The two ends of Illinois smoldered in uncertainty on July 3, 1917. Read more »

2, July 2017

“This Was the Apocalypse”: East St. Louis, July 2, 1917

Welcome to our three-part series about the 1917 East St. Louis race riot. This post covers events during the riot. To find out what happened before it and its aftermath, click here.

In the evening of July 2, 1917, 11-year-old Freda McDonald was laying on the bed she shared with her siblings, studying the peculiar humming sound growing outside her family’s small shack on Gratiot Street, near downtown St. Louis. Read more »

1, July 2017

“A City without a Social Contract”: Tensions in St. Louis's Industrial Suburb

Welcome to our three-part series about the 1917 East St. Louis race riot. This post covers events leading up to the riot. To find out what happened during it and its aftermath, click here.

“Money tree . . . all you have to do is go up there and shake it.” That’s the visual impoverished Southern blacks used to describe East St. Louis in 1916, according to Lyman Bluitt, a local black doctor. Read more »

28, June 2017

St. Louis’s Forgotten Sit-In Story

Long before four male African American college students held their February 1, 1960, sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, St. Louisans were using the tactic to push for a change in their city’s segregated dining establishments. Read more »

22, June 2017

Live-Tweeting the East St. Louis Race Riot of 1917

In less than 48 hours—from the evening of July 1, 1917, to midday on July 3, 1917—East St. Louis descended into one of the deadliest race riots in U.S. history. As many as 200 African Americans were killed, hundreds more were left homeless, and large sections of the city were ruined. The national response ranks among the foundational moments of the modern civil rights movement, but like much so of our region’s civil rights history, the East St. Louis race riot's legacy has faded outside of museums and history textbooks. Read more »

15, June 2017

Famous for Freedom Suits

In 2013 the judges of the 22nd Judicial Circuit voted to create a memorial to the lawyers and slaves who litigated hundreds of freedom suits here in St. Louis. Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, Missouri’s legal system operated under a “once free, always free” policy. This meant that if an enslaved person was taken into a free state for more than a brief amount of time, he or she was free. Read more »

9, June 2017

The St. Louis Party That Started a Phenomenon

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in May 1917, a group of St. Louis’s A-list gathered at a home in the Central West End neighborhood. The occasion was relaxed, a way for friends to enjoy conversation and cocktails on a pleasant spring day—it was also the first organized cocktail party in recorded history. Read more »