The African-American Heritage of St. Louis: A Guide

St. Louis County

The City of St. Louis and St. Louis County have been separate political entities for many, many years. (St. Louis was granted status as a separate county in 1875. In current state and US Bureau of the Census statistics it is listed as an independent city.)

The City of St. Louis is rather tear-drop shaped, bounded on the east by the Mississippi River and on all other sides by the County.

Physical boundaries for St. Louis County are the Mississippi River and the crescent-shaped, western city limits on the east. From north to northwest it is bounded by the Missouri River. Due west, beyond Babler State Park and the Rockwood Reservation, it is bounded by Franklin County. On the south-by-southwest and southeast, the principal natural boundary is the meandering Meramac River. The south-central part of the County line has no natural boundary. The line between it and Jefferson County runs east and west, just south of Fenton.

40.     Kinloch
        A municipality in northwest St. Louis County, off Interstate 70,
        east of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport

People often wonder how the all-black community in northwest St. Louis County came to have the name, Kinloch. The name is Scottish in origin and means "at the head of the lake." Some sources indicate that Major Henry Smith Turner named the area after his ancestral family name. Other sources state that the Scots settler, Major Richard Graham, who arrived in the area in 1807, named part of his land "Kinloch" after his holdings in Virginia. The area remained sparsely settled up to the end of the 19th century. A small number of blacks had land in the locality.

Kinloch Park was developed in the 1890s as a commuter suburb. The establishment of the Wabash Railroad from downtown St. Louis through the Kinloch area sparked development by whites. A small area of land was reserved for purchase by blacks, many of whom where house servants for Kinloch's new homeowners. When a white land-owner sold to a black family a small parcel in an area of Kinloch restricted to whites, many whites sold their lots and moved, thus further opening the market to blacks.

The majority of blacks arrived in Kinloch during the 1920s. Many of them were black soldiers returning from service in World War I. Restrictive housing practices in St. Louis City made moving outside the city and away from the pressures of racial prejudice appealing to many blacks. The East St. Louis race riots in 1917 brought many Illinois residents to the area. Additional black settlement was abetted by the northern migration of blacks from the South.

The initial black church in Kinloch was the First Missionary Baptist Church, now at 5844 Monroe Avenue, dating from 1901. Other churches followed: First United Methodist Church in 1904; Second Missionary Baptist Church at 5508 Lyons in 1914; Kinloch Church of God in Christ, now Tabernacle of Faith and Deliverance, in 1914; and Our Lady of the Angels (originally Holy Angels) in the early 1920s.

Although the one-room frame Vernon School opened for black children in 1885, it closed a few months later. Black children in the Kinloch area traveled to Normandy to attend the school opened at Lucas and Hunt [electronic editor's note: "Lucas and Hunt" is the name of a single street.] in 1886. The Vernon School, which moved to a number of locations in the area, served black children until the formation of the Kinloch School District in 1902, and its building remained in use as an all-black school in the Ferguson District until it was closed in 1967. When whites in the area split to form a separate school district in 1902, the Scudder Avenue School became Kinloch's elementary school. A second elementary school, Dunbar, was opened in 1914. High school students attended Sumner in St. Louis City until Kinloch High School opened in 1937. In the mid-1970s, to further integrate education, both the Kinloch and the white Berkeley school districts were annexed into the Ferguson-Florissant School District. Kinloch students were also served by Holy Angels (now Our Lady of the Angels) Elementary School which opened in 1931.

In 1948 Kinloch was incorporated as Missouri's first fourth-class, all-black city.

41.     Webster Groves/Rock Hill
        Municipalities in south central St. Louis County, off Interstate
        44; Manchester Road runs through Rock Hill
African Americans, many of them slaves freed after the Civil War, settled in what today is northern Webster Groves and southeast Rock Hill in the 1860s. Some slaves, like those brought to the area by John and James Marshall and John Marshall's parents-in-law, Thomas and Cynthia Berry, were freed after the Emancipation Proclamation and given tracts of land along Kirkham Road, then called Shady Avenue. Slave quarters on the Marshall and Berry lands were behind the Marshall house a few lots from what today is the southwest corner of Rock Hill and Manchester roads. As more blacks joined them there in the following decades, the area around Rock Hill Avenue and Kirkham became known as the "Old Community." Although African Americans lived all over Webster, as the area became more attractive to whites wishing to move to the suburbs in the 1910s and 1920s, many blacks moved to the north Webster area around their churches and the Douglass School.

Webster's first African American church, the First Baptist Church, was established in 1866 on Kirkham just north of Gore. When church members decided to move the congregation to a new building at 159 East Kirkham Road in 1923, part of the congregation chose to remain at the old location at 238 West Kirkham as the Old Community Baptist Church. The Blackwell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, today at 511 North Elm, traces its beginnings to 1889 when members worshipped at a store at Gore and Moody avenues.

Classes for African American children were started in 1866 by Emma Babcock, a white woman. The Webster School Board, which had been established in 1868, took over administration of the school and appointed its first black teacher, T. A. Bush, in 1870. With more students the school expanded its rented quarters. When the building burned down in 1890, a new school was erected on Holland Avenue. In 1895 it was named for Frederick Douglass, the black abolitionist who died that year.

Until the Douglass High School was opened, black children from the area attended Sumner High School. Frank Stone, a Webster resident, with August Ewing, also of Webster, and Mr. and Mrs. William Jenkins of Kirkwood, hired an attorney and went to Jefferson city to plead with the Missouri Supreme Court to order communities to open high school classes for blacks. Douglass High School, with classes beginning in 1917, was the only accredited high school for blacks in St. Louis County for many years and attracted black youth from areas as far away as Ferguson and House Springs. The high school was demolished in 1956, two years after the [U.S.] Supreme Court decision against segregated education.

The new Douglass Elementary School, in a building at 546 North Elm dedicated in 1947, was closed in 1978. It was refurbished in 1983 as a 41-unit subsidized housing complex for older adults and disabled families. It is now called Douglass Manor Apartments. The cafeteria area of the old school was renovated and named the Howard B. Goins Community Center. Goins was the principal of Douglass elementary and high schools for 38 years.

42.     Kirkwood/Meacham Park
        A municipality in southwest St. Louis County, off Interstate 44
There are records of African American residents, both free and slave, in the Kirkwood area from before the Civil War. Following the war, some blacks remained in the area and formed the nucleus of a community near the business district, while others spread out within the town limits. Descendants of these early settlers are an integral part of the community today.

The Olive Chapel of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, today at Monroe and Harrison, was organized in 1853. Other early African American churches in the area are the Rose Hill Baptist Church (First Baptist Church), organized in 1870; the Second Baptist Church at Taylor and Monroe, organized in 1878; and the Harrison Avenue Baptist Church, at Harrison and Clinton, organized in 1880.

Provisions for the education of black children within the Kirkwood District were made in 1865. In 1866 classes were first held in rented space, but by 1869 black students moved to their own school, later named the Booker T. Washington School, on Adams Avenue near Geyer Road. Night-school classes for adults were added in 1874-75, and in 1877 a black teacher started teaching at the school.

Black people moved into Meacham Park, an unincorporated area of St. Louis County adjacent to Kirkwood, in the early 1900s. Although today the area is predominantly black, it was an interracial community after World War I. Some people mistakenly think that Meacham Park was named after John Berry Meachum. It was named for a white man who purchased the area in 1904.

The Kirkwood School District took in the Meacham Park area. African American children attended the segregated Washington School in Kirkwood. Black parents in Meacham Park in 1908, 1909, and 1910 petitioned for a school closer to their community. By 1924, when there were more black children from Meacham Park attending the Washington School, a four-room frame school was built to serve the black children of Meacham Park, although the Washington School remained open to serve black Kirkwood children. The elementary school in Meacham Park was named the James Milton Turner School. High school-age youngsters went to Sumner High School in St. Louis.

Parents of black children protested in 1950 when the Washington School was closed, and its classes were sent to the Turner School. Some parents tried to enroll their children at white schools and later in the year brought suit against the Kirkwood District because it did not provide equal facilities. The [U.S.] Supreme Court decision in 1954 ended segregation in Kirkwood School District.

In November 1991 voters in both Kirkwood and Meacham Park approved annexation of Meacham Park by Kirkwood.

43.     Blacks in Flight mural
        Lambert-St. Louis International Airport
The 51-foot "Blacks in Flight" mural, by artists Spencer Taylor and Solomon Thurman, is located on the lower concourse east of the baggage claim [area] at Lambert Field. The mural includes the portraits of 75 African American important in the history of aviation, ranging from Eugene Bullard, a black fighter pilot for the French Flying Corps in World War I, to Guion Bluford, Dr. Mae Jamison and Ronald McNair, three black astronauts. A large part of the mural concerns the Tuskegee Airmen who flew in the 99th Fighter Squadron, which fought in the Mediterranean Theater in World War II.

The mural, which was unveiled on August 13, 1990, is near Siegfried Reinhardt's mural depicting the history of manned flight. Protests of the lack of any black fliers in Reinhardt's mural led to the painting of the companion mural which chronicles the achievements of African Americans in aviation since 1917.

44.     Washington Park Cemetery
        3300 Brown Road, near Interstate 70 at the southeast corner of
        Lambert-St. Louis International Airport
Founded in the early 1920s, this non-perpetual care, 30-acre burial ground is probably the largest "black" cemetery in the St. Louis area.

[Electronic editor's note: This cemetery has been deeply affected by the building of Interstate 70, which passes through it; extensions to Lambert-St. Louis's runways, and the building of MetroLink light-rail tracks across its northern sections. It is still the source of on-going controversy as the Bi-State Development Agency (the `quasi'-governmental body responsible for local bus, paratransit, and light rail service) attempts to locate relatives of the interred before the remains are moved to new burial sites.

For background and current information on Washington Park Cemetery, search paper and/or electronic indexes to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and back issues of The St. Louis American, and The Argus.] Taylor

45.     Father Dickson Cemetery
        845 South Sappington Road, Crestwood, St. Louis County
The Father Dickson Cemetery was founded in 1915 and named for Father "Moses" Dickson, a black abolitionist leader who founded the Knights of Liberty. Among those buried in the Father Dickson Cemetery is James Milton Turner (1840-1915), who led the fight for free public education for Missouri blacks; organized the Missouri Equal Rights League in 1865; campaigned throughout the state for the rights of blacks to vote; and served as resident consul general to Liberia from 1871 to 1878. Upon his return to St. Louis he devoted his life to the Freedman's Bureau.
46.     Greenwood Cemetery
        6571 St. Louis Avenue, Wellston, St. Louis County
This privately owned cemetery has been operated by the same family since 1910.
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