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26, October 2017

Gaines v. Canada: A Monumental Civil Rights Victory

Of the several groundbreaking civil rights cases to originate in St. Louis and reach the US Supreme Court, Gaines v. Canada ranks high. The 1938 decision struck a resounding blow to the heart of segregation in higher education. It also signaled the beginning of the end of legal segregation, which had been put in place by the High Court’s 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that established the doctrine of “separate but equal.” Pioneering NAACP attorneys Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall were determined to reverse the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling, which pronounced racial separation constitutional as long as public institutions were equal, and a young man named Lloyd Lionel Gaines, with the support of his NAACP-provided attorneys Sidney Redmond and Henry Espy, provided a promising test case for the nascent civil rights organization. Read more »

26, August 2017

Jefferson Bank: A Defining Moment

The protests against unequal hiring practices at Jefferson Bank and Trust, which lasted for seven months, mark the largest—and most contentious—civil rights struggle in the history of St. Louis. Many local civil rights activists were involved, including William “Bill” Clay, Ivory Perry, Norman Seay, Charles and Marian Oldham, and Robert Curtis. 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. If that person was taken back into Missouri later on but not released to freedom, Missouri law allowed him or her to sue for the civil right of freedom. Read more »

25, May 2017

Supporting Civil Rights for All

Not long ago, the Holocaust Museum & Learning Center and the St. Louis Jewish Community Archives developed an exhibition called Standing for Justice. The first part (1930–1950) focused on anti-Semitism and discrimination against the St. Louis Jewish community in everything from housing and employment to swimming-pool access and the Red Scare. Material for the follow-up exhibition (1950–1980) revealed a gradual change in focus in the post-WWII-era Jewish community, one that strongly involved fighting for the civil rights of all people. Read more »

3, May 2017

Deeds of Mistrust

Across the first half of the 20th century, realtors and white homeowners used restrictive deed covenants to stem African Americans' “invasion” of American cities. Such covenants bound those who signed them, as well as subsequent owners, to limit whom a property could be sold to and who could live there. Read more »

27, April 2017

Have You Met an ACTivist Yet?

Whether introducing new generations to St. Louis's civil rights legacy or reminding older ones of its existence, the ACTivists Project ensures the people and stories of our community's freedom struggle will not be forgotten. This theatre-based project is a counterpart to our #1 in Civil Rights exhibit. Read more »

13, April 2017

Jordan Chambers: The Negro Mayor of St. Louis

In 1931 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch referred to Jordan Chambers, who held no official political office, as the Negro Mayor of St. Louis. Chambers was larger than life, a political power broker whose influence was far reaching. It was said that little happened in St. Louis politics—or in the black community in general—that Chambers didn’t somehow have a hand in. Read more »

6, March 2017

Eye on Exhibits: From Headline to Exhibit

The process for creating the kinds of exhibits we do at the Missouri History Museum is a long one. So many decisions have to be made over the course of their development that by the time we finally open, I don’t often recall the moment that we began. But I clearly remember the day we decided to create #1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis. Read more »