Beyond the 1960s: Documenting St. Louis’ Civil Rights History

While most American History textbooks focus on the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, in St. Louis (and in many parts of the US) the movement is much more complex. In recent years more historians have turned their attention to the years preceding and following the turbulent Sixties.

Primarily due to the interconnected nature of Washington University’s faculty, students, and staff with the wider St. Louis community, many civil rights related documents are located at University Archives.


To help all students and scholars locate these unique resources, University Archives maintains an online topic guide to St. Louis and Civil Rights History, featuring links about key collections at University Archives and additional published sources available from the WU Libraries.   (image, right)STL-CR-screen

Washington University students in classes such as Associate Professor Sonia Lee’s “The Long Civil Rights Movement” and Associate Professor Robert Hansman’s “Social Justice and the Built Environment” have used these resources to study both the history and present-day issues of St. Louis.

All researchers are welcome at University Archives.   Community members with a personal interest, students, staff and faculty from WU, and scholars from other schools and universities are all encouraged to contact us for more information about the collections.


1941annual-report_coverpageThe Urban League of St. Louis collection, located at University Archives, is one of several primary sources for examining wider aspects of civil rights history.  (1941 Annual Report introduction pictured on left, click to enlarge)

Cover Art

Priscilla Dowden-White used extensive materials from the Urban League collection in her recent publication of Groping toward democracy : African American social welfare reform in St. Louis, 1910-1949 (U of Missouri Press, 2011).

Interested in more topic guides from University Archives? Also check out guides available on Chinese-American History in St. Louis and LGBT History.

About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.