On September 22, 1964, a banner headline in The St. Louis American proclaimed St. Louis as the “Number One City in Civil Rights.” In the article, Judge Nathan B. Young argued that St. Louis—more than any other city in the US—was pre-eminent in the country’s struggle for civil rights based on the number of Supreme Court cases that originated in St. Louis and the city’s long history of protest that led to significant change.
Today the claim that St. Louis is the most important city in US civil rights history may seem surprising, but that’s because so much of St. Louis’s activist past has been forgotten. The country’s civil rights history has too often been written about a limited number of places during a limited period of time. In the process, cities such as St. Louis have largely been left out of the national narrative. “#1 in Civil Rights” reclaims that history.
This exhibit doesn’t aim to prove that St. Louis is the most important city in the country’s civil rights history, but it does argue that St. Louis’s freedom struggle is more substantive than is usually recognized—and that it’s too important to be ignored.
The content included in this digital experience was part of a larger exhibit entitled “#1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis.” The exhibit was created by the Missouri History Museum and was on display there from March 2017 to April 2018.