African-Americans | St. Louis Public Radio

African-Americans

Coffee Wright founded the St. Louis Inner City Cultural Center Enterprise 20 years ago. This year, the organization is partnering with the Missouri History Museum for a Friday night Juneteenth event. This photo is from her group's second annual Juneteenth
Derrick Phillips

St. Louis is known for its elaborate Fourth of July events, with fireworks bursting in dozens of municipalities and most famously, over the Arch.

But many St. Louisans want that kind of attention also focused on a significant day for African-Americans and the nation: Juneteenth. It commemorates a June 19, 1865, Texas order that freed all enslaved Americans, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Several local events mark the occasion. Many take place this weekend, including one organized by Tracy Johnson of south St. Louis, who said he can’t overemphasize the day’s importance.

“Besides an African-American’s birthday, that should be the next day they celebrate,” Johnson said.

A stretch of Martin Luther King Drive that houses two furniture-and-appliance stores is seen from atop the old J.C. Penney building between Hamilton and Hodiamont avenues.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On just about any day, a stream of customers arrives at Jaden’s Diner at 4251 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in The Ville neighborhood of north St. Louis. For people from the neighborhood, and for those from other parts of St. Louis, there’s one big draw.

“We’ve got one of the best soul-food places in St. Louis city,” exclaimed Iris Crawford, a cook at the restaurant.

The restaurant can get crowded, especially on Sundays. That’s when the diner offers a glimpse into the once-bustling community of then-Easton Avenue — decades ago an economic powerhouse. Its glory days are long gone, but proud residents hope improvements will come.