African-American history

court documents and newspaper clipping

ACLU-MO History Spotlight: LGBTQ+ Equity

By Miranda Rectenwald on June 8, 2020

LGBTQ+ Equity In 1972, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri’s new executive director, Joyce Armstrong, prioritized building relationships with local gay and lesbian groups. She spoke to the Mandrake Society, St. Louis’ first gay rights or “homophile” organization, and coordinated with leaders at the gay-...

Portrait of Dr. Venable. Caption: H.P. Venable, M.D. F.A.C.S. Asst. Instructor in Clinical Opthalmology Washington University School of Medicine; Head and Director, Department of Ophthalmology Homer G. Phillips Hospital

ACLU-MO History Spotlight: New Home for the Venable Family

By Miranda Rectenwald on June 5, 2020

Segregation in Missouri typically occurred (and occurs) by custom, rather than law. Proving that discrimination occurred, and then eliminating it, required diligent efforts by many activists. New Home for the Venable Family, 1956–1960 Dr. Howard Phillip Venable and his wife, Katie, purchased land...

Newspaper articles about police brutality in St. Louis, from the Post-Dispatch 1990s

ACLU-MO History Spotlight: Reforms to End Police Violence

By Miranda Rectenwald on June 3, 2020

Once again, as I write about the ACLU of Missouri’s history of trying to stop police violence, I do so as I listen to news stories of protesters met with tear gas and rubber bullets. As updates scroll by on my newsfeed about a black man, already in handcuffs, murdered by a while police offi...

Missouri's Two State Universities booklet and letter from St. Louis Civil Liberties, 1949

ACLU-MO History Spotlight: School Desegregation

By Miranda Rectenwald on May 20, 2020

Ending Segregated Education Starting in the 1940s, the St. Louis Civil Liberties Committee began working with the local NAACP and Urban League chapters on civil rights efforts. This followed the pattern established by Roger Baldwin in founding the ACLU, ensuring that work on “inter-racial q...

door with shadow

ACLU-MO and Racial Justice: 1940s

By Miranda Rectenwald on May 18, 2020

ACLU-MO in the 1940s In the years before World War II, the St. Louis Civil Liberties Committee was a small organization. In March 1940 St. Louis had 47 members, and an annual budget of just under $300 (roughly $5,000 in 2020 dollars).  There was no paid staff.  Board meetings were held in officer...

Whitehouse with protesters in front carring sign "Mr. President Fee the Scottsboro Boys!"

ACLU-MO Early Years: 1930s

By Miranda Rectenwald on May 13, 2020

The St. Louis Civil Liberties Committee began on May 7, 1920, with about a dozen volunteers, both men and women. For its first decades, the group and its actions remained focused on advocacy and education about civil rights. By 1932, the national ACLU noted that St. Louis was focusing “chie...

Tracking Down History

By Miranda Rectenwald on April 30, 2020

The story of the ACLU of Missouri is long and complex — and the process for researching this history is the work of many, many individuals. In January 2020, Emily Gross, a Washington University student interning with the ACLU-MO centennial project, spoke with lawyer and journalist Bill Frei...

text on white page

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

By Miranda Rectenwald on April 23, 2020

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-fa...

white paper with printing

Poetry Contest Day 5

By Miranda Rectenwald on March 25, 2020

While preparing materials for a faculty workshop last fall, I happened across a brief correspondence from Langston Hughes in the St. Louis Urban League Records. November 29, 1940 from Los Angeles, California, Langston Hughes wrote, “Dear Mr. Clark:  I read with much interest of your plans f...