Looking for my first black experience

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Next. By the time those words appeared in The Souls of Black Folk the lines of segregation in America were drawn in thick, bold lines. Louis was no different. Racial segregation was institutionalized in St. Louis by intent, accident, or benign neglect throughout its history, effecting the nature of race relations in the city today. Race relations in St. Louis were more complex than many other places because the city was located in a border state that permitted slavery. Urban slavery took on a character of its own.

In the home of King Cotton, most slaves lived in plantation or farm settings, having little or no contact with free blacks. While larger plantations tended to be somewhat self-contained units requiring some skilled slaves, the vast majority were unskilled field workers. Southern cities differed. Businesses or individuals could "rent" slaves with specific skills such as printing, blacksmithing, horse care, or carpentry. People who lived in St. Louis and other border cities like it had more frequent contact with slaves with known abilities. This regular contact with both north and south meant that free blacks and slaves walked the same streets, met the same people, and interacted with one another.

This mingling of slave and free heightened the issue of the peculiar institution and its abolition. Louis was a major slave auctioning center during the s, as buyers in the lower Mississippi River dealt with more than two dozen agents in the trade such as Corbin and Thompson on 6th between Pine and Chestnut. Louis, and a slave pen on Broadway adjacent to today's Busch Stadium.

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Some 2, hecklers shouted down auctioneers at a public sale on the steps of the Old Courthouse instopping the practice for good in St. Louis mirrors the national experience. Slavery existed and flourished alongside free blacks.

African-Americans in antebellum St. Louis needed s to live in the city, and were banned from voting or testifying against whites in court. While a "black aristocracy" of merchants and professionals existed here by the late s, their lives were far more restrictive than those of their white counterparts.

Blacks were subject to housing restrictions, curfews, bans on education, and prohibition from testifying in court against whites. Since white residents came here from different parts of the country, political values clashed. Pro-slavery folk encouraged the slave trade, supported the ban on educating African-Americans, and may have even owned slaves.

A group of them lynched mulatto Francis McIntosh12 intying him to a tree and burning him alive. Abolitionists ran newspapers and aided fugitives fleeing to freedom. Elijah Lovejoy moved to St. Louis in June of to be editor of the St. Louis Observer, a Presbyterian paper. Within two years pro-southern whites answered his antislavery editorials with threats against the paper's office. After a series of break-ins at the paper in and a judge publicly denouncing his views, Lovejoy moved to Alton, Illinois, where slavery was illegal since the Northwest Ordinance of Later that year, a pro-slavery mob attacked the paper's office and killed Lovejoy.

Frances Dana Gage met violence as well. A women's rights leader and writer in Ohio, Gage moved to St. She wrote extensively on feminism and temperance in the s and s for regional, national, and agricultural papers. Horrified by slavery in Missouri, Gage directed her energies here toward abolition.

The Missouri Republican responded by merely refusing to publish her fervently antislavery columns, but others took stronger action. Her home was burned several times before the Civil War. Others worked through the legal system, hoping to find justice in the courts. Attorney Roswell Field father of the famous children's writer Eugene Field ed a team of lawyers in the late s to represent Dred Scott, suing for his freedom. Peter Blow, Scott's owner, brought him to St. Louis inand later sold him to Dr. John Emerson at Jefferson Barracks. Emerson took him to a free state, where he married a free black named Harriet.

Later he and wife moved back to the area with the doctor. After Emerson died and left his property-including his slaves-to his wife, Scott sued for his freedom.

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His argument in held that he was now a free black after his experience in the north. A second trial ruled in his favor inbut the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the decision two years later, returning Scott to John Sanford, who had since purchased Scott from Emerson's widow. After five years, inthe U.

Supreme Court ruled against Scott; Chief Justice William Taney ruled that blacks had no rights under the constitution which white people needed to respect. At the time of the Dred Scott case, about one person in twenty living in St. Louis was African-American, two-third of whom were slaves. The percentage of the population with African descent was about five percent until the late s. The end of political Reconstruction in and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the south compelled southern blacks to migrate north to cities such as St. Most famous, perhaps, were the Exodusters ofso named for their exodus to what many of them thought was a sort of "promised land.

Like European immigrants, these Exodusters were both pushed and pulled north. Many feared the Reconstruction and the absence of U. The KKK gave added impetus to fear for safety and life.

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At the same time, they were attracted by the lure of land in the opening West. Migrating to form new black communities, mostly in Kansas, these former slaves arrived in St. Louis and Kansas City penniless on their trek to new lives in the West.

Local black leadership wanted to provide enough money and supplies to move these migrants out of St. Louis as quickly as possible. Some were concerned that these immigrants would become an economic drain on the African-American community's limited resources; others feared that increased s of poor blacks would confirm white stereotypes of racial inferiority.

James Milton Turner, Moses Dickson, John Wheeler, and John Turner led the creation of the Committee of Twenty-Five in early March ofto organize transportation and temporary housing for the 10, or so travelers. The Committee split in mid-April: the Colored Refugee Relief Board worked on finding housing and transportation, while the Colored Immigration Aid Society raised money to form new black colonies in the west.

Most Exodusters moved to the plains of western Kansas, eastern Colorado, and southern Utah; others stopped in St. The city's black population increased by to 6. Immigration to St. Louis increased again in the s.

Southern rural blacks were attracted to many growing industrial centers by the lure of factory jobs. Louis, and Buffalo were popular destination points. African-Americans filled a local labor shortage in created by World War I, since European immigration came to a trickle. The same was true during World War II. Attracted by wartime production jobs such as those in the local small arms plant, the black population increased 41 percent during the war.

Fraternal organizations provided one response to the flow of new black arrivals and the racism they encountered.

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Like their counterparts for whites, these groups combined aspects of social clubs and benevolent societies. Prince Hall No. Louis, followed by Lone Star No. McGee Alexander No. At the end of the Civil War, the lodges successfully petitioned their parent organization, the Ohio Grand Lodge, to create their own Grand Lodge of Missouri.

By there were nine black Freemasons chapters in the city, and the Negro Masonic Hall Association raised enough money to purchase its own building. The groups moved from their rented quarters to Easton Avenue now Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Members of these lodges included some of the most prominent members of the local African-American community.

The Masons helped black immigrants find jobs and places to live, offered needed relief, contributed to charities, backed education, and promoted the Horatio Alger-style values of honesty and good work. On a visit to St. Louis in the early s, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, separate worship had a long heritage. The earliest church for blacks in St. Louis, First Baptist, opened in A growing black population in St.

Louis required more and bigger churches. It was the first church building constructed by and for an African-American congregation. The church moved to Lawton and Leffingwell in The Laclede Town development in the s took the site, so the church moved to Hamilton Avenue. The first Roman Catholic church for a black congregation, St. Elizabeth's, opened the following year in the former Vinegar Hill Hall at 14th and Gay. Its Oblate Sisters of the Poor, an order for black nuns, opened a parish school inand published the Chronicle later the Interracial Review in the s and s.

The order closed in He soon closed it under great pressure from local authorities who accused him of stirring up trouble by teaching blacks "reading, writing, and figuring. Augustin Paris organized a school for black Catholic girls at 3rd and Poplar inmostly for daughters of free blacks. It closed in "under pressure of civil authorities. Missouri law banned teaching African-Americans to read and write starting ingrowing largely out of fears by slave owners that an educated black population would be a rebellious one.

However, the Mississippi River was considered beyond state jurisdiction, governed by federal law only-and beyond the reach of the school ban. John Berry Meachum created a new school on a barge in the Mississippi River. Skiffs carried students each day to the barge where they took classes, then returned at night without ever technically breaking the law.

During the Civil War, with St. Louis under Union control, pro-northern leaders had greater latitude. Two days later, the building mysteriously burned, but the school continued in different quarters. At the end of the Civil War, Missouri enacted a new state constitution. Passed in January ofprovisions included a ban on slavery and a requirement that all school boards support education for African-Americans. When the academic year started, St. Louis had five schools for blacks with 1, pupils administered by a Board of Education for Colored Schools.

At first, it rented sites for schools, so they moved frequently in the early years. Twelve schools for African-American children opened their doors at the start of the school year, including two-year-old Colored School No. Its first black teachers entered classrooms there in ; Oscar Waring became its first African-American principal two years later.

Looking for my first black experience

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