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Open to All: The Fight to Desegregate St. Louis Restaurants

One of the documents preserved in the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Records at the Washington University Libraries is this simple black and white mimeographed sheet produced by CORE (Committee of Racial Equality) volunteers working in St. Louis.

The page lists “places to eat-facilities open to all”—restaurants, coffee shops, snack bars, and cafeterias in St. Louis city and county where African Americans would not be refused service. CORE created this list by surveying locations that maintained a policy of admitting people regardless of skin color and then confirming the policy through “test” visits to the locations by (both black and white) volunteers.

Prepared by the Committee of Racial Equality in January 1961, this is a typed list titled "Places to Eat - Open to All." The list is detailed further down the page under the heading "Places to Eat."

An easier-to-read, typed list of the eateries can be found below.

What Can We Learn from This Sheet of Paper?

A lot. This single page offers a wealth of information and insight into our community’s efforts to fight against racial division.

There is, of course, the factual data—the names and locations where African Americans in St. Louis could purchase a meal. Many also include addresses, so with contemporary GIS technology, we could map these locations and look at this history through the lens of geography. It could also be compared with locations where LGBTQ St. Louisans were welcomed, as outlined on the Mapping LGBTQ St. Louis site

This sheet of paper also offers an example of the complex efforts enacted toward reducing racial discrimination. Civil rights history is so much more than the visible marches, mass meetings, and national legislation typically surveyed in US History class (as Julian Bond quipped, “Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, and the white kids came down and saved the day.”).

In this document, we see that it was economic—as CORE encouraged patronage of restaurants that were doing the right thing—and that it was interwoven among many groups of people, not just college activists or radical fringe groups. We also see that it was not a single story across the nation. The methods of CORE in St. Louis were quite different from those of college students in Greensboro, North Carolina. (If you are interested in reading more about the overlooked activist history of St. Louis check out this newly published title, The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States).

Places to Eat

What follows is a copy of the listing prepared by CORE volunteers in St. Louis and distributed in January 1961. Headings and facilities listed are as on the original document, with minor emphases and clarifications in wording added in italics. Links were added to provide more context about the facility in general, not necessarily about its history with racial integration.

RESTAURANTS

  • Branding Iron, 61 S. Meramec
  • Dog House, 509 N 7th
  • Essex, 819 Washington
  • Forum, 307 N. 7th
  • Grand Inn, 910 N. Grand
  • Golden Fried Chicken, 5865 Delmar
  • Holloway House, 7384 Forsyth and 9501 Watson Rd
  • Howard Johnson, all except 3501 N. Kingshighway
  • Miss Hulling’s, both locations
  • Luggers, 921 Washington
  • Maryland, 205 N/ 9th and 15 N. Meramec
  • Morris Grill, 1342 N. Kingshighway
  • Nantucket Cove, 40 N. Kingshighway
  • Olde Cheshire, 7036 Clayton
  • Orange Front, Maple & Kingshighway
  • Parkmoor car service only, all locations
  • Peach Garden, 3610 Olive
  • Pope’s [Cafeteria], all locations
  • Purple Cow Sandwich Shop, 116 N. 8th
  • Raleigh House, 8027 Forsyth
  • Redwood Restaurant, 1948 S. Brentwood
  • Regal, 312 N. Grand
  • Steak City, 202 N. 8th
  • Schultes, 412 N. 12th
  • Shoppers Lunch, 304 N. 6th
  • Stevens, 1344 Hodiamont
  • Thompsons, all locations
  • White Castle, all locations

HOTEL [FOOD SERVICE]

  • Bell Aire (Henrici’s), 4634 Lindell
  • Clayton Inn, 7750 Carondelet
  • Congress Coffee Shop, 275 Union
  • Coronado, 3701 Lindell
  • DeSoto, 200 N. 11th St.
  • Diplomat, 433 N. Kingshighway
  • Jefferson Coffee Shop, 415 N. 12th
  • Kingsway, 108 N. Kingshighway
  • Mark Twain, 8th & Pine
  • Mayfair, 806 St. Charles
  • Statler, 822 Washington

DRUG STORES

  • Park Plaza, 203 N. Kingshighway
  • Walgreens, all locations
  • Katz Drugs, all locations
  • Jefferson Hotel Drug, 415 N. 12th
  • Glazier

VARIETY STORES

  • Kresge, all locations
  • McCroy’s, 421 N. 6th
  • Neisner, all locations
  • Newberry’s, 7352 Manchester West Road Shopping Center
  • Woolworth, all locations

DEPARTMENT STORES (ALL FACILITIES IN BOTH CITY & COUNTY)

MISCELLANEOUS

Lambert Airport Restaurant

Beaumont Building Coffee Shop, 3720 Washington

Bettendorf’s Stores

Coffee Room, 100 N. Euclid

East St. Louis [Illinois] Bus Terminal, 4th & Washington

Federal Coffee Shop, 100 S. 12th

Fred Harvey, Union Station

Golden Eagle, 4267 Olive

Greyhound Bus Station

Humpty Dumpty, 7th & Delmar

Moll’s, 5659 Delmar

St. Charles Barome, 2912 Locust

Straub’s Markets

Teutenberg’s, 320 N. 6th and 714 Washington

Union Market Counter, 700 N. 6th

YWCA and YMCA Cafeterias, all locations

Prepared by the Committee of Racial Equality in January 1961, this is a typed list titled "Places to Eat - Open to All." The list is detailed further down the page under the heading "Places to Eat."

ACLU-MO @ 100

This post is part of a series in recognition of the American Civil Liberty Union of Missouri’s centennial year (1920-2020). Read more stories at: ACLU-MO @ 100 in Our News

If you have a question about this post or other topics related to St. Louis history, I can be reached at mrectenwald@wustl.edu or on Twitter @mrectenwald.