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.

text on white pageAn 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.

Restaurantstext on white page

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 Carondolet

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 Westroad Shopping Center

Woolworth, all locations

Department Stores (all facilities in both city & county)

Famous-Barr

Sears

Scruggs

Stix, Baer & Fuller

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


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: https://library.wustl.edu/tag/ACLU-MO@100/

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.

About the author

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