St. Louis’ racial history is a big part of what the community is today. For many years, St. Louis Public Radio has hosted an online history that highlights some of the big historical events that St. Louisans, and those who take an interest in St. Louis from the outside, should know about to understand how the city functions today.
That project is known as “St. Louis History in Black and White.” You can find on our website featuring the project here. It initially encompassed 27 segments of historical events as detailed in St. Louis on the Air interviews conducted by host Don Marsh with experts and many people who lived through the events themselves.
Now, the website has been relaunched with added historical context, a handy timeline and more segments with a comprehensive look at Ferguson since the death of Michael Brown.
Want to listen to the whole series? Download the podcast here.
On Monday’s special holiday edition of St. Louis on the Air, we heard about two major civil rights demonstrations and look back at the life of St. Louis native Josephine Baker.
Here are the original segments you can listen to, as part of “St. Louis History in Black and White.” Descriptions and background information researched and written by Don Marsh:
1. Jefferson Bank Demonstration (1963)
One of the most important chapters in St. Louis civil rights history was written in the late summer of 1963 when African-Americans launched a series of protest demonstrations against the Jefferson Bank. It was largely a community effort by black political, religious and activist leaders in protest against not only the lack of black employees at the bank, but for the widespread practice against employing blacks by many of the major companies in the city. One of the key players in the demonstrations was a city Alderman, William Clay, who later was elected to Congress. He and hundreds of others went to jail for their role in the demonstrations, the legal ramifications of which went on for three and a half years. Clay documented the confrontation in his book The Jefferson Bank Confrontation: The Struggle for Civil Rights in St. Louis. He talked about it with his son Congressman William (Lacy) Clay.
2. East St. Louis Race Riot (1917)
Race riots were not uncommon in the decades following the Civil War. Many were inspired by the migration of poor black farm workers from the South to the North. Northern white people watched the migrants arrive with some alarm, primarily because black people were a source of cheap labor that threatened to take local jobs. This was, in fact, often realized as white-owned companies exploited the situation. The bloodiest and ugliest of the race riots in the industrial North took place in East St. Louis on July 2, 1917. Historian-journalist Harper Barnes detailed the incident in his book Never Been A Time.
3. Josephine Baker (1906-1975)
World renowned singer-dancer-actress Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis in 1906. For the next 69 years of her life, she knew the despair of poverty, fame on the stage, heroism in war, the sting of discrimination and the power of inclusion. At the root of all of it was her early years in St. Louis. On the occasion of her centennial, we talked about Baker with Professor of African-American Studies at USC-San Diego Benetta Jules-Rosette, the author of Josephine Baker in Art and Life: The Icon and the Image; Mary Strauss, owner of the Fox Theater; Olivia Lahs-Gonzalez, Curator of the Josephine Baker Centennial Exhibit at the Sheldon Art Gallery.
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.