Grassroots at the Gateway
Class Politics and Black Freedom Struggle in St. Louis, 1936-75
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Series: Class : Culture
Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication
In the mid–1990s, when I was an M.A. student at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, I became a member of a grassroots organization in nearby St. Louis, Missouri. In conversations with activists of various stripes, I encountered the frequent complaint that the city was a cultural backwater and its black community politically timid. ...
List of Abbreviations
In the midsummer of 1964, St. Louis’s Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) picketed the construction site of the Gateway Arch monument, protesting the exclusion of African Americans from the skilled building trades involved in the publicly supported Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Demanding a fair share of jobs for black workers, two activists ...
1. A Black Working-Class Public, 1932–39
Disembarking at St. Louis’s teeming Union Station, black migrants from Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and rural Missouri encountered a stable black community that had developed remarkably during slavery and matured rapidly after its demise. Waves of newcomers in the second and third decades of the twentieth century had also dramatically remade the city’s ...
2. The St. Louis March on Washington and the Historic Bloc for “Double Victory,” 1942–45
The black working-class political bloc that had arisen during the Depression was further reified in the new wartime crisis raging in Europe. As the United States joined the campaign against the Axis powers of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Imperial Japan, an industrial renaissance occurred on the domestic front. Many aspects of the local economy allowed ...
3. Black Working-Class Demobilization and Liberal Interracialism, 1946–54
By 1946, following British prime minister Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri, the United States and Soviet Union had emerged as rival world powers. Under the administration of Missourian Harry S. Truman, this simmering Cold War generated an American security state to contain the spread of Communism. Mass U.S. labor unrest ...
4. Grassroots Renewal and the “Heroic” Period, 1956–61
In June 1954, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the St. Louis Board of Education voted to integrate its schools, and a number of historically black institutions, including the Booker T. Washington Vocational School, closed. By June 1953, CORE could boast of thirty-four previously all-white eateries that had ended Jim ...
5. Black Freedom at the Crossroads of Automation and De Facto Racism, 1962–64
When Jordan Chambers died in August 1962, he had recently won the primary race for reelection as constable. Having held the Nineteenth Ward committeeman’s seat since 1938, he was the oldest member of the city’s Democratic Central Committee, and the key broker of black electoral cohesion. The black vote, constituting 40 percent of the local Democratic Party’s ...
6. The Jefferson Bank Boycott and the “General Strike” against Racism, 1963–64
Departing by bus from the NAACP and NALC headquarters, three hundred St. Louisans began a twenty-hour journey on August 27, 1963, to attend the D.C. March for Jobs and Freedom. Margaret Bush Wilson and Ernest Calloway sat among the four busloads of travelers, as did leading members of the city’s white religious, human rights, and ecumenical com-...
7. “What Do We Want?”: Black Power and the Growing Contradictions of Class, 1965–71
The passage of the1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights acts were vividly symbolic of the movement’s many triumphs, but they also unraveled the tenuous consensus that had fastened together the national civil rights coalition of the SCLC, NAACP, SNCC, CORE, and the Urban League. The already strained relations between SNCC and CORE on the ...
8. Broken Bloc: “Law and Order,” the New Right, and Racial Uplift Redux, 1968–75
Despite black power’s contradictory class character, its popular association with communal insurrections was indicative of “the issue of black poverty and unemployment” that had become the central domestic crisis of the 1960s. Since 1950 a large swath of the black working class had become a “semiproletariat” barely suspended above permanent unemployment. ...
At the end of the 1970s, “St. Louis was clearly the patron saint of the nation’s urban crisis” that for many residents in the surrounding county epitomized the danger and dysfunction of urban life. In 1980, two sociologists ranked it one of the nation’s most depressed cities, as measured by housing stock, per capita income, and degree of population decline. By then, ...
Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 11 B&W photographs
Publication Year: 2009
Series Title: Class : Culture
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