Civil Rights | St. Louis Public Radio

Civil Rights

Undated Family Photo

In 1983, James DeClue beat James DeClue for the position of president of the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP. The Rev. James F. DeClue, a Baptist minister and corporate executive, led the city NAACP for much of the 1980s, despite a serious challenge from his cousin, the late Dr. James A. DeClue. The Rev. DeClue died last week at the age of 86.

Mustard Seed Theater

Alicia Reve' Like plays Nella, a bright patch in an Alabama family whose quilts tell stories of segregation and the civil rights movement.

Last February, Alicia Reve' Like portrayed a motel maid who whooped up on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Black Rep’s “The Mountaintop,” the story of King’s last hours.

Adam Bielawski / via Wikimedia Commons

Despite a musical career that has spanned decades and provided inspiration for the civil rights movement, until recently the only information available about the Staple Singers was from interviews, articles and songs.

A new biography by Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot changes all that by providing the back story of the musical family in book form for the first time. With a nod to two hit songs, the book is titled “I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March Up Freedom’s Highway.”

(via Wikimedia Commons / U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

In the summer of 1963, hundreds of thousands across the nation converged on Washington, D.C. to march for jobs and freedom.

Meanwhile, back in St. Louis, local civil rights activists were gearing up for a demonstration of their own: a picket line and sit-in at Jefferson Bank, also calling for equal employment for African Americans. Despite being located in an African American neighborhood, the only African Americans employed by the bank worked as janitors.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 30, 2013: The world has little noted nor long remembered what Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson said at Gettysburg 50 years ago today but Johnson’s address at that hallowed spot on May 30, 1963, provided an important link in the battle for civil rights one half century ago.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 21, 2013 - It was just after 11 p.m., and the weather was clear. The driver was an attractive woman in her late 40s; fashionably dressed, hair and nails professionally done. In simpler times, you might have described her as a “career girl.”

Her late model car was properly licensed and operating within the speed limit. In short, there was nothing about her outward appearance to suggest that she would be a person of interest to law enforcement.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In 1963, when it appeared that blacks protesting the discriminatory practices at Jefferson Bank and Trust Co. in St. Louis were not being taken seriously, Dr. Jerome Williams thought it was time to step up and step in.

He organized doctors and other professionals to join the marchers.

“Jerome Williams did a fantastic job of organizing support,” said civil rights activist Norman R. Seay. “We saluted him because so many people were against what we were doing, even many middle-class blacks.”

On Sunday, September 15, 1963, a 14-year old Carolyn McKinstry witnessed an event that would change her life forever – the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The incident killed Carolyn's four friends - and would become an recurring topic of conversation and lasting mark on America's history to this day.

Random House

As the daughter of civil rights figure and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, Paula Young Shelton found herself surrounded by many an activist during her childhood in Atlanta. Her fond recollections include spending time with her “Uncle Martin,” Martin Luther King Jr., and being carried on her father’s back during the Selma to Montgomery March as African Americans fought for equal voting rights. She captures and elaborates upon these moments in her children’s book, “Child Of The Civil Rights Movement.” She was in town recently with the Hands On Black History Museum to read her book to St.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 24, 2012 - Ann Bliss Malone Hunter first felt the sting of discrimination as an African American growing up in St. Louis when she heard her older brother won the spelling bee but a white child took home the prize.

Hunter doesn’t remember the winning word. But she’ll never forget the story her father told: After the Patrick Henry Elementary student spelled his last word correctly, the judges then gave the word to a white girl, who spelled it the same way. They declared her the winner, and presented her with a new Schwinn bike. He got roller skates -- second prize.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 26, 2012 - Talk about your awkward situations. Here was John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center, longtime respected journalist, now the victim of an embarrassing hoax biography posted on Wikipedia, saying he had defected to the Soviet Union and was a suspect in the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy.

Could a man whose career had been dedicated to freedom of the press file suit for defamation? Should he?

Poll: Support For Gay Marriage Jumped In Illinois

Sep 26, 2012
Wikimedia Commons

A new poll shows gay marriage has seen a sharp jump in support among Illinois voters.

The poll by Southern Illinois University's Simon Public Policy Institute found that 44 percent of voters support legalizing gay marriage. That's up 10 points from two years ago.

Nearly one-third of voters said they back civil unions for gay couples. Only 20 percent oppose legal recognition of same-sex couples.

Pollsters interviewed 1,261 registered voters by phone between Sept. 4 and Sept. 10. The margin of error is 3 points plus or minus.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 23, 2012 - Gay-rights activists have announced that Creve Coeur has become the fifth city in St. Louis County, and the sixth in the region, to approve an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes protections “for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in employment, housing, and public accommodations.”

The historic entrance arch to the Lewis Place neighborhood, which will receive state aid nearly a year after a tornado damaged 91 homes in the area.
Adam Allington | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is freeing up $1 million dollars to fund repairs to a historic north side neighborhood damaged in last year’s New Years Eve tornado.

The storm damage in St. Louis was not enough to qualify for federal disaster aid.

City officials announced on Monday that uninsured property owners on Lewis Place could qualify for up to $30,000 for repairs.

The storm damaged roughly 150 buildings on Lewis Place, a site know for its lush green median and historic footnote in St. Louis’ Civil Rights struggle.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 3, 2011 - "Who the hell is Diane Nash?"

That's what a furious Bobby Kennedy wanted to know when he called his representative, John Siegenthaler, who had been sent down South to help defuse the crisis touched off by the freedom riders 50 years ago. The group of black and white activists who wanted to end Jim Crow laws set out on buses for what was supposed to be a two-week trip from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans. But their journey was anything but smooth.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

On Wednesday, students at the City Academy, a private school in north St. Louis, will have a chance to view a civil rights documentary shot and edited by their schoolmates.

Commentary: The long 'Dream' continues

Jan 17, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 17, 2011 - Imagine the 2008 presidential campaign as a Hollywood production. Barack Obama was cast as Martin Luther King Jr. incarnate -- healer of our collective wounds, symbol of racial progress and equality ... the embodiment of "the Dream."

The "feel good" movie served as epilogue to the tenuous civil rights movement. Electing an African-American president based on "content of character," not color of skin, signaled the dawn of a post-racial society. With King reincarnated occupying the White House, America was absolved of any need to address historic race-based social and economic ills.

photo by Aaron Doerr

Bobby Norfolk was driving somewhere in 2009 when NPR's Fresh Air stopped him in his tracks.  He remembers the interview with author Larry Tye as "the most compelling hour of listening" he's ever experienced. Tye's biography of Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige started Norfolk on a journey that's culminated in his latest one man show,  Shadowball: The Negro Baseball Leagues.

Commentary: Glenn Beck's buffet-style civil rights

Aug 31, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 31, 2010 - We've all heard about the controversy of Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally, which took place on the 47th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech." The analysis has largely been stuck on the question of whether Beck should or should not have held his rally on the landmark date. In my opinion, what is most egregious is Beck's plan to "reclaim civil rights" buffet-style. In addition, I find the larger dynamics of the rally, as the beginning of a movement, worth questioning considering that Beck paints himself as an entertainer (see show's voiceover and apocalyptic jingle).

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 4, 2010 - A century after the Civil War, 19-year-old Chris Hexter of St. Louis joined an army of idealistic youths in blue jeans and sneakers heading south to Mississippi to fight side by side with African-American residents who were demanding -- at long last -- their constitutional right to vote.

It was the Freedom Summer of 1964, and though 46 years have come and gone, the human struggle that ensued during that sweltering summer in the Delta remains seared into American history -- and in the memories of those who were there.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 21, 2010 - Much is made of the civil-rights movement in northern cities like New York, Chicago and Detroit, or southern cities like Atlanta and Memphis.

Clarence Lang, an associate professor at the University of Illinois in African-American Studies and history, argues in his new book that the civil-rights histories in border-state cities like St. Louis offer a clearer window into the nation's longstanding struggle over race.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: During an interview with the Beacon last summer, noted civil rights lawyer Frankie Freeman said she was ready to wind down, take life easy after more than a half century of civil rights work and public and private appointments. But duty has called once again, and she couldn't say no. She seldom can when the issue involves education and city schools.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 7, 2009 -The skirmishes of half a century of the civil rights movement were visible in last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision in a New Haven firefighters' case - a case that resonated in St. Louis and other large cities where fire and police departments were historically segregated.

The New Haven decision makes it harder for black firefighters to achieve the kind of decisions they won in the 1970s when fire departments like St. Louis and New Haven had only one black supervisory officer and when eating clubs in St. Louis fire houses refused to include black firefighters.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 30, 2009 - Dividing along ideological lines, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Monday that New Haven had discriminated against white and Hispanic firefighters in throwing out a promotional exam on which African-American firefighters had done poorly. The decision reverses a lower court decision that had been joined by Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 15, 2009 - If you wonder what former President Bill Clinton is up to these days, you can catch him next Saturday (June 20) when he delivers the keynote address during Major League Baseball’s Civil Rights Game weekend in Cincinnati. The game will be televised on the new MLB Network for those with cable or satellite TV.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 15, 2009 - Although some opponents of President Barack Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court decry the notion of “identity politics,” that notion has been with us for more than 150 years.

It stems from people’s desire to see someone like them in the halls of government, which became possible in the second half of the 19th century. Immigration filled our nation’s cities with members of many ethnic and religious groups who lived in enclaves with those from the same country. Machine politics offered representation to these “huddled masses who yearned to breathe free.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 2, 2009 - Gail Milissa Grant barely realized she had won.

"All I heard was, 'At the'," she said, recalling last Thursday night in New York when her memoir "At the Elbows of My Elders: One Family's Journey Toward Civil Rights" won the top Benjamin Franklin award for memoir and autobiography.