The relationship between segregation, black political experience, and civic culture in urban America is neither simple nor straightforward. This paper examines the development of a rich and varied black civic life in St. Louis during the first half of the twentieth century amid a climate of deepening racial hostility. As African-American migration accelerated, the city's white power structure mobilized for segregation. At the same time, African-Americans in St. Louis shifted political alliance to the Democratic Party, earlier than national trends. Black leaders capitalized on increasing numbers to seize the vote-getting power of the political machine, and used the Democratic Party to challenge old-line Republican ward bosses. Republican complicity in segregation, coupled with Democratic delivery of a major black teaching hospital, sealed the shift. Meanwhile, while segregation remained a constant feature of daily life, its application on the ground was uneven. African-American religious leaders, politicians, publishers, trade unionists, educators, and women's clubs took advantage of this uneven racial climate to construct a vibrant array of civic institutions. The clubs, churches, schools, hospitals, and media organs developed under Jim Crow nurtured a generation of African-Americans that would reject the segregationist framework of civic life in St. Louis.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 705-736
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.