Between Civil Rights and Black Power in the Gateway City: the Action Committee to Improve Opportunities for Negroes (ACTION), 1964-75.
When construction began on the federally assisted Gateway Arch project in the early 1960s, St. Louis, Missouri's civic, business and government elite viewed it as a means of revitalizing the blighted downtown riverfront area. Located near the banks of the Mississippi, this tourist attraction would be the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial park, symbolizing through formidable public art St. Louis's importance as the gateway city to the American west. Many local Civil Rights activists, however, saw the Arch project as indicative of continuing racial discrimination. African Americans worked as laborers at the site, but held no positions in the skilled building trades involved in the construction. During the midsummer of 1964, members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) picketed the Old Courthouse, which housed the downtown offices of the superintendent of the construction project. Then on July 14, one black and one white member of CORE staged a dramatic demonstration that became legend in St. Louis's Civil Rights struggle. While construction workers lunched, and protesters gathered for a press conference at the Old Courthouse, Percy Green and Richard Daly used a partially enclosed steel surface ladder to scale 125 feet up the north leg of the unfinished structure. Workmen returning to the scene found the two men perched above them, sitting on rungs of the ladder. Feet dangling, Green and Daly ignored orders by workers, National Park Service officers, and the project's assistant superintendent to disembark. A group of demonstrators, gathered at the base of the Arch leg, demanded that black workers receive at least ten percent of the jobs at the site. Four hours after making their ascent, the two Civil Rights activists climbed down the fixture to a reception of news media and police. Authorities charged them both with trespassing, peace disturbance, and resisting arrest. (1)
The incident focused attention on construction contractors, and black St. Louisans' longstanding grievances about the racially exclusive nature of the building trades in this strongly unionized city. It also forced the federal government to assay its nondiscrimination policies toward government contractors and federally assisted construction projects. The protest became part of a chain of events that led the U.S. Justice Department to file a "pattern or practice of discrimination" suit against the St. Louis AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Council, and four of its member unions. This was the first such action under Title VII of the newly implemented 1964 Civil Rights Act, which governed equal employment opportunity. (2)
The demonstration at the Arch occurred under the auspices of St. Louis CORE, but it marked the beginnings of an offshoot group--the Action Committee to Improve Opportunities for Negroes (ACTION). Active between 1964 and 1984, the organization offers entry into several tributaries of social history on the black experience. First, ACTION's history adds to revisionist treatments of the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and '60s that address the intersection between the movement, black labor/working-class insurgency, and the locally-oriented nature of these activities. (3) Such narratives decenter national black protest organizations and their local branches, lending greater attention to indigenous, unaffiliated groupings. This "New" Civil Rights Studies also gives greater weight to local struggles than to the initiatives of the federal government. Third, a study of ACTION further challenges portrayals of the Civil Rights struggle as elite-driven and focused on a symbolic, narrowly conceived "integration." Rather, investigating such an organization illuminates how the fight for the right to vote and enjoy public accommodations on par with white citizens was wedded to strategies for expanding employment and other economic opportunities for black people. Fourth, this work augments new historical interpretations asserting that Civil Rights and Black Power were not dichotomous political projects, as historians have claimed in the past. That is, no impenetrable line of demarcation existed between the strategies, tactics and goals often attributed separately to either "Civil Rights" or "Black Power." ACTION's membership exhibited qualities one could ascribe generically to either liberal integrationism or black nationalism. However, the organization did not fit neatly in either category. Instead, it straddled an enigmatic line between the two, serving as a visible bridge between the Civil Rights and Black Power phases of this period of African American social movement activity. (4)
This paper argues that ACTION's "inbetween" character was not at all contradictory, which calls into question continuing efforts to mythologize Civil Rights and vilify Black Power in the popular memory. But while they are not sharply discontinuous, neither are Civil Rights and Black Power collapsible historical constructs. To completely obliterate any distinguishing traits between the two effectively removes the black experience from the fluid patterns of continuity and change that undergird historical inquiry. Using ACTION as an illustration, this project contends that Civil Rights and Black Power drew adherents from similar, overlapping constituencies. Yet, Civil Rights and Black Power were identifiable phases of an evolving Black Freedom Movement. Proceeding from this conceptual grounding, this paper locates ACTION within the changing character and membership of CORE, and the contradictions of the Civil Rights struggle of the early 1960s. Second, this project discusses ACTION's own development, rank-and-file, and political agenda. This work then moves to a description of ACTION's major organizational campaigns, its interactions with crosscurrents of Black Power in St. Louis during the late 1960s, and its gradual decline. Finally, this work offers a fuller interpretation of the organization's legacies, and its overall significance within Civil Rights and Black Power scholarship.
African Americans in St. Louis
St. Louis was a unique crossroads--the "Gateway City." Historically, it had been a strategic center of riverboat commerce, and a midcontinental link between eastern centers of finance and the developing territories west of the Mississippi. On a vertical axis, the city embodied a "mutual checkmating of Northern and Southern influences." During the Civil War, St. Louis was split between pro-Union and Confederate sympathies; like Kentucky and Maryland, two other border states, missouri avoided secession. Like its midwestern neighbors to the immediate north, St. Louis became both heavily industrialized and unionized. The city similarly became a terminus for southeastern European and Lebanese immigrants, though culturally it bore the marks of its more numerous German and Irish population. A smoky, noise-ridden manufacturing center, St. Louis was neither a small town nor a big city. It may have been "commercially Yankee," but it was a southern metropolis in its racially proscriptive laws and practices, though unevenly so. Missouri law forbade interracial marriage and integrated schooling, though open seating prevailed on public conveyances. Department stores welcomed black shoppers, but their lunch counters refused them service. Separate, and fewer, public recreational facilities existed for black children in the city. Theaters, municipal swimming pools, and restaurants were also segregated, but public libraries were not. Because black St. Louisans could vote, they held political office early on, and used their strength in district elections to gain lower-level patronage jobs and services. This included the building of the first, and one of the finest, black high schools west of the Mississippi; and much later, construction of the full-service Homer G. Phillips Hospital. Yet, the franchise did not translate into equal participation at the bargaining table, where white political and business leaders still made the major decisions affecting black communities. (5)
In the realm of work, most black St. Louisans earned their livelihoods as personal servants, and as unskilled and common laborers in packing, steel, iron, glass, brick and railroad industries where unionization was weakest. A handful of black people worked in the city's declining shoe, clothing and textile industries, and toiled on the riverfront levee. Black women, additionally, found work in marginal food and rag processing industries. While employed as construction helpers, Black men were excluded from the skilled building trades, as they were from most AFL unions. Jim Crow norms also were manifest in the city's housing patterns. Following the example of citizens in Baltimore and Louisville, white voters in St. Louis passed a residential segregation ordinance in 1916. Efforts by the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, overturned the law, but realtors and homeowners' groups found private restrictive covenants adequate for achieving the spatial containment of St. Louis's swelling black population after the Great War. Although scattered in pockets across the city, most African Americans occupied the city's Central Corridor, where they crowded the northern fringes of the downtown business district and the three wards nearest the central riverfront. Mill Creek Valley, located in this area, was a maze of cheap tenements and hotels, pawnshops, churches, factory-lined streetcar tracks, and dilapidated shacks without indoor plumbing. West of the downtown-midtown area, Elleardsville, known as the "Ville," similarly became an African American enclave, and the center of black St. Louis's dense social, cultural and educational institutions. (6)
St. Louis CORE and the Postwar Black Revolt, 1948-60
During the 1930s and '40s, these conditions helped ignite black community struggles around recreational space, federal relief, better schools, and expanded employment opportunities. Unemployed Councils, the American Workers Union, the St. Louis Negro Workers Council, and the March on Washington Movement were among the organizations and citizens' committees that pursued these goals, backed by the St. Louis Argus and St. Louis American, the city's two major black newspapers. (7) ACTION was historically continuous with these periods of activity, but it had its most immediate origins in the St. Louis Committee of Racial Equality. Established in 1942, CORE was an offshoot of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), a small Christian-pacifist group. Rooted in a Gandhian worldview and the spirit of interracialism, the committee sought to apply the philosophy of nonviolence directly to racial problems. Formed in 1947-48, St. Louis CORE was a bi-racial assemblage of World War II veterans, students, teachers, professors, labor lawyers, and organizers with the United Wholesale and Distribution Workers of America (later Teamsters Local 688).
The committee participated in a broad interracial campaign to desegregate St. Louis's public swimming pools in 1949-50, though its main focus was desegregating lunch counters at downtown department stores, drugstores, and dimestores. Through sit-in campaigns, members forced Woolworth's, Walgreen's, and other five-and-dimes to end lunch counter restrictions on black patrons. By 1955, even the major department stores had opened all of their eating accommodations to black St. Louisans, and desegregation of the city's midtown movie houses and theaters soon followed. A series of Supreme Court decisions, meanwhile, chiseled at the edifices of legal racism, culminating in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision. Bus boycotts in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (1953-54) and Montgomery, Alabama (1955-56) also propelled black civil rights to the forefront of the national agenda. This set the stage for an active, mass-based challenge to segregation rooted in nonviolent resistance--methods FOR and CORE had pioneered. (8)
Following a brief period of quietude, St. Louis CORE revived itself in 1957-58 around the fight against a proposed new city charter, and a campaign for improved black employment in supermarket chains, department stores and other consumer goods industries. Much of this occurred in joint action with the St. Louis NAACP's Job Opportunities Council, whose members had negotiated agreements with Kroger's and National Tea in 1957, and picketed an A & P store. The NAACP-CORE collaboration around changing existing employment policies brought numerous successess in 1958-59, while members of CORE and the NAACP's militant Youth Council continued to picket the White Castles, Howard Johnsons, and other eateries that still practiced Jim Crow. In 1960, Theodore McNeal--a former leader of the St. Louis March on Washington Movement, and chairman of the NAACP Job Opportunities Council--became Missouri's first black state senator. Pressured from below by young demonstrators, the Missouri Restaurant Owners Association also began a voluntary desegregation program. In 1961, St. Louis aldermen passed a hard-won public accommodations ordinance ending segregation in all stores, theaters, hotels, restaurants and playgrounds. Following a split with the senior NAACP branch, most Youth Council members left to join the growing ranks of St. Louis CORE. (9)
St. Louis CORE in Transition at the Height of the Civil Rights Struggle, 1961-64
The "Freedom Rides," begun in May 1961 to test the integration of interstate terminals, catapulted the organization to national prominence. In the three-year period that followed, CORE assumed a larger role in voter registration in the South. However, job discrimination in northern and border states became its central emphasis. The mass nature of these campaigns allowed CORE to enlist, for the first time, substantial numbers of working-class blacks. Circa 1960, an estimated 214,337 African Americans lived in St. Louis, many of them recently migrated from Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama. Some 98 percent resided mainly in three locations cutting through the central city, including the area directly adjacent to the downtown business district, and midtown. With the explosion of mass direct action, many of these black St. Louisans sought to align themselves directly with protest organizations. By 1962, CORE nationally had grown from a group with predominantly white, northern, middle-class membership to one more evenly balanced between blacks and whites, workers and professionals, and northerners and southerners. Among those who joined St. Louis CORE during this period were Ivory Perry, a Korean War veteran, and Percy Green, a skilled radio and electrical mechanic at McDonnell Aircraft. At the suggestion of a white co-worker, Green began attending CORE meetings, and became a regular on a picket line at a local Kroger's grocery store. (10)
This was a scant six months before the organization began a massive 1963-64 boycott against the Jefferson Bank and Trust Company. Most African Americans deposited their money at the bank, yet the financial institution employed none in clerical work. Demonstrators mounted their protests with missionary zeal, literally putting their bodies "on the line" in front of bank entrances, teller's windows, department stores, City Hall, and even the tires of police cars. Nine high-profile demonstrators were arrested, and several more arrests followed. Regular CORE meetings skyrocketed from ten people to a staggering 300. With much of the experienced leadership behind bars, Green assumed responsibility for coordinating the picket line at the bank. Shortly thereafter, he became chairman of CORE's employment committee. The Urban League and NAACP, initially supportive of the boycotters' aims, turned against them when they continued to defy a court injunction prohibiting disruptions of the bank's business. Even old militants like State Senator McNeal upbraided the protesters for violating the restraining order. But many working-class African Americans like Green who joined CORE during this period were skeptical of the tactics of polite noncooperation. As this new constituency became more engaged, CORE's thrust became both more creative and militant, with many chapters actively organizing mass arrests. (11)
Thus, the Jefferson Bank boycott reflected the many changes occurring in CORE nationally. A tension existed between tactics of economic coercion and social disruption, and the organization's philosophical commitment to pacifism. Other tensions involved a tug-of-war between those who counseled gradualism, and others who questioned the organization's "tea and doughnuts" strategy of civility, interracial negotiation and demonstrations that adhered to the law. The growing working-class, black and mass character of CORE's activities also were increasing demands for African American leadership. "By 1963, CORE had a more nationalistic approach to civil rights," Marian Oldham, a founding member of St. Louis CORE, remembered. "Blacks said let's do it ourselves--'Black Is Beautiful' ... We didn't have as many white members. The group was more restive--they wanted more immediate results." When the Jefferson Bank boycott ended with the placement of four black bank tellers in January 1964, members of St. Louis CORE immediately fell into a dispute over what some considered the protest's limited gains. This internal conflict mirrored similar debate about the need for a more confrontational, though still nonviolent, strategy. Advocates viewed the prospect of more forceful methods as a way to win more than just a handful of jobs. Nationally, the successes and failures of the 1961-64 period led many members of CORE and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to search for new organizational visions. Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, further undermined the shaky consensus they had shared with moderate organizations like the NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). (12)
The landscape of black political activity and consciousness also was shifting in response to several economic and social processes at work since the late 1940s. New industries in electronics, chemicals and aerospace defense prospered in the St. Louis area, but manufacturing in the city declined overall, as did retail trade. This degeneration in St. Louis's industrial vitality and downtown commerce only reinforced a growing joblessness among the local black population. Government-sponsored highways enabled firms like McDonnell Aircraft, Monsanto Chemical, and Emerson Electric to locate in developing suburban sites. Many of these firms were reputed to hire African Americans only in the most marginal job categories. As early as 1962, Ernest Calloway--a former St. Louis NAACP president, a Teamster, and then president of the local division of the Negro American Labor Council--was issuing warnings about the adverse effects of automation on young black workers just entering the labor market. The 1964 Economic Opportunity Act further acknowledged the changing economic topography: Programs like the Job Corps, and St. Louis's Human Development Corporation, focused on skills training, services, and job placement for innercity youth and other "unemployables." Concomitant to this, policy changes in the federal Aid to Dependent Children program coincided with the increase in black women receiving assistance, but it further stigmatized them in their poverty and poorly substituted for meaningful employment. (13)
St. Louis mayor Joseph Darst, and his successor Raymond Tucker, were representative of the city officials across the nation who faced the uncertain urban-industrial future by fashioning pro-growth alliances to strengthen downtown, build expressways, and remove urban "obsolescence." Tucker helped consolidate Civic Progress, Inc., a small consortium of the city's top business and civic figures--men such as department store owner Howard F. Baer, aircraft titan William A. McDonnell, brewer August A. Busch, and Boatmen's Bank executive Tom K. Smith. Created in 1952 during the Darst administration, this loose coalition molded land-use policy alongside City Hall. The group heavily promoted civic improvement bond issues to underwrite new urban development. Downtown St. Louis, Inc., another consortium of business executives, boasted a similar mission of resuscitating the Central Corridor, and the chairman of the local City Plan Commission was among its conveners. Gathering momentum in the 1950s, "downtown revitalization" and "urban renewal" framed the thinking of mayors, business leaders, realtors, the daily press, development agencies, and even trade unions. Ironically, this pro-growth orientation, coupled with the effects of federal highway and housing acts, only contributed to the Gateway City's continuing woes. Highway construction eviscerated St. Louis's central-city areas, and facilitated an on-going white suburban and business exodus west of downtown. Private banks, and the Federal Housing and Veterans administrations, favored homeowner loans to single-family dwellings in the "new homogeneous" neighborhoods sprouting to the west, and redlined older areas of the city. Simultaneously, federally assisted slum clearance expedited black residential displacement and new forms of ghettoization. Mill Creek Valley became the major target of local urban renewal initiatives. Beginning in 1959, demolition of the area dislocated an estimated 20,000 black people, ten percent of St. Louis's African American population. Redevelopment plans included new housing, industrial parks, commercial buildings, and an expansion of the St. Louis University campus; yet much of the 460 acres of property lay barren, earning it the apt moniker "Hiroshima Flats." (14)
Many of the "Mill Creek exiles" beelined to Carr Square Village, the Pruitt-Igoe homes, Darst-Webbe, and other low-rent federal housing projects on the city's near North and near South sides, both directly adjacent to the devastated urban renewal area. Mainly constructed during the 1950s as high-rises, these projects lacked adequate playground space and proximity to social amenities. Shoddy doorknobs, locks, window frames and water pipes underscored the buildings' overall makeshift structures. Other black refugees from St. Louis urban renewal settled in the midtown area, whose growing reputation for crime became fodder for the daily media. The neighborhoods north of Delmar Avenue also became solidly black as white St. Louisans quit their homes in the city for residences at the western suburban fringe. In 1960, the St. Louis Urban League reported, 70 percent of the city's 214,337 African Americans lived in or near deteriorating housing stock, much of it built prior to 1939. Through the 1948 Shelley v. Kraemer Supreme Court ruling, and the efforts of the Greater St. Louis Committee for Freedom of Residence, many black families of means relocated to nearby St. Louis County suburbs. But continuing employment discrimination, particularly in the skilled trades, affected workers' ability to secure lives outside the deteriorating urban core. At the zenith of the Civil Rights struggle, then, two St. Louis metropoles were coming into stark form: a central hub, mainly black and poor; and a western suburban crescent, largely white and more affluent. (15)
This growing racialized poverty undermined the promises of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, and as in other urban centers seeded the soil for a revivified black nationalist upsurge. (16) The volatile Civil Rights consensus clearly disintegrated as battle-fatigued activists divided over such matters as whether African Americans should have privileged, or sole, leadership in Civil Rights organizations; whether whites should remain part of such organizations; and whether activists should focus more clearly on the problems of the black urban poor. This proposed strategy of inner-city community organizing, which became CORE's official policy around 1964, reflected an ethos that would become known as "Black Power." By 1966, both SNCC and CORE had endorsed interpretations of this slogan. ACTION emerged from these economic travails, mounting tensions within CORE, and the overall schisms altering the Civil Rights struggle.
"More and Better Paying Jobs for Black Men": ACTION's Program and Strategic Thrust
The Action Committee to Improve Opportunities for Negroes began its nascent development in January 1964, when the results of the Jefferson Bank boycott split the ranks of St. Louis CORE. Direct action dissidents soon began consolidating a separate infrastructure, though as the Gateway Arch demonstrations illustrated, they continued to organize protests under the recognizable name of their parent group. By December 1964, the formal split with CORE had occurred and the dissidents stepped fully out of the shadows. ACTION established headquarters at 2906 Union Boulevard, in St. Louis's black-populated Ville area. In one of their first public acts, members publicized a Civil Rights Benefit Program featuring jazz, folk music, and dramatic performances. The fundraiser took place in early June, and members announced plans to share the monies with SNCC's upcoming summer Southern Voter Registration Project. The newborn group's name easily evoked the image of an old-guard Civil Rights organization, particularly the use of the term "Negro," which was falling out of usage among younger activists, who viewed themselves as "Black." But the group's acronym, ACTION, betrayed a far more militant essence. Its twenty-five initial members reflected the more grassroots and action-oriented forces who had gravitated toward CORE's employment committee. The presence of political radicals, liberal integrationists, and peace activists all enabled the organization to tap a vast array of talents and skills. Program, not ideology, was primary. A number of internal councils formed, including a finance committee that coordinated the sale of organizational memberships and one-cent "freedom stamps." Both projects provided needed revenue, while regular Sunday meetings open to the public helped the organization maintain contact with a variety of potential cadre and supporters. (17)
Some members, like former CORE chairman and Jefferson boycott organizer Robert Curtis, were black professionals. Curtis shared radical leanings with members like Hershel Walker, an Unemployed Council veteran and the former chair of the National Negro Labor Council who had led a 1952 boycott of a local Sears store. Other members were college-educated whites of liberal stripe who had connections to Washington University, St. Louis University, and other prestigious institutions of higher education. Sister Cecilia Goldman, who chaired ACTION's religious committee, was a Maryknoll nun. The Reverend William Matheus, another member, was assistant rector at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, a bulwark of progressive social causes. Doris Gammon, the organization's accountant, was a young wife and mother. Green, the organization's chairman, was a skilled worker who nonetheless spent many years in the ranks of the "hardcore unemployed" because of his political involvement. Luther Mitchell, a World War II veteran newly relocated from Chicago, brought to the organization an interest in black history and community art that would prove vital to expanding its support base. Ivory Perry, typical of some ACTION members, maintained direct ties to CORE. As a volunteer organization with high turnover, ACTION drew into its orbit as many as seventy people beyond an active membership of thirty. Overall, the organization's membership combined a cross-section of three constituencies. The first was a black and white petty elite, who hailed from established ecumenical and pacifist backgrounds. These were the interracialist networks that had formed CORE's early bedrock, followed by those who had joined CORE from the NAACP Youth Council. The second constituency was the larger number of black working-class people, whom the NAACP had been unable, or unwilling, to mobilize since the 1950s. A few had been politically active for decades, but most had been inspired to action by the southern Civil Rights struggle and the Jefferson Bank boycott. This stratum had become CORE's most vital component, giving the organization its mass base. The third, and most numerous, constituency was an emerging cohort of black youth between the ages of 20 and 30. Faced with diminished job opportunites, dislocated by urban renewal, and isolated by postwar ghettoization, this membership was most receptive to the appeals of Black Power.
When the organization first became public, its literature announced a program of securing more and better employment opportunities for black St. Louisans, specifically good working-class jobs with ample benefits. Unemployment among African Americans in St. Louis was nearly three times greater than among whites. Black workers' wages also lagged. In 1959, black St. Louis families earned an annual median income of $3,718, as compared to $6,300 for white families. In 1960, some 11 percent of all black families in St. Louis city had annual incomes of less than $1,000. Twenty-five percent had annual incomes of less than $2,000, while 29 percent had incomes of between $2,000 and $4,000. Occupationally, only 22 percent of African Americans employed in St. Louis city and St. Louis County (16,791) were employed in professional, technical, managerial, clerical, sales, and skilled jobs. Summarized the Urban League: "One of every three Negroes that are employed works either in private households or as service workers." (18) Black people's concentration in this small range of job classifications persisted because big businesses denied African American workers opportunities outside of menial, low-paying labor. Refuting claims that black workers did not possess the necessary skills for better jobs, ACTION members contended that in well-paying blue-collar occupations like gas meter reading, telephone installation and repair, and baked goods delivery, skills were learned on the job, and workers needed only a basic formal education. While not excluding African American women from its purview, the organization rallied members around the slogan "More and Better Paying Jobs for Black Men," which made evident a focus on achieving better male employment. Publicizing an ACTION informational meeting, one early handbill read:
ACTION is spearheading a project to obtain good paying jobs for Negro men, both unskilled and skilled--with main emphasis on those jobs requiring little or no formal education and little or no previous experience. Good paying jobs of this type are found in Big Business, who can afford ON-THE-JOB TRAINING for their employees. (19)
As was evident in this statement, ACTION's leadership understood its purpose through the lens of the "male wage-earner," thus equating social citizenship for African American workers with the attainment of black "manhood." Such reasoning drew from the black folk wisdom that companies hired African American women in prestigious, though minor, positions to preempt meaningful employment of black men. This racialized, gendered dimension to ACTION's working-class program overlooked the particular ways in which racism affected black women. Granted, the phone company employed a select number of educated black women as telephone operators, which bestowed respectability and "lady-hood." Most black women in St. Louis, however, remained in domestic-oriented work, subject to low wages and irregular hours. Arguments privileging black manhood also shared the same discursive space as "War on Poverty" arguments blaming "matriarchy" for the poverty and cultural dysfunction in black communities. Such viewpoints fed a conviction that black women acted, through no fault of their own perhaps, as a barrier to black men assuming their rightful place as the heads of households and communities. (20)
While it may have skewed the picture of racism's effects on black men and women, ACTION's organizational platform recognized that improving the quality of black life hinged on lifting the boats of the community's working class. Better wages, activists believed, would translate into more consumer spending in the city's declining black neighborhoods, and enrich black-owned businesses. Holding a good job, from this perspective, also created opportunities for workers to learn how to start and manage their own businesses. To fight for their ideal of the black wage-earning "family chief breadwinner," members targeted several major employers--McDonnell Aircraft Company (which became McDonnell-Douglas Corporation following a 1967 merger), Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, Laclede Gas Company, and Union Electric Company. ACTION's leadership argued that black men and women should make up ten percent of all hires at Southwestern, Laclede, Union, and McDonnell, based on the total number of employees at each firm. The organization also demanded the General Contractors Association in St. Louis admit 1,000 black men into on-the-job training programs, and place them in all construction crafts. While mindful of the fact that many industrial unions colluded with management in discriminating against black employees, ACTION leaders understood that outside the building trades, where craft unions wielded control over the hiring process through apprenticeships, management held the reins of hiring and promotions. The city's utilities were central objects of ACTION's attention: Because they enjoyed franchises granted by the city, they presumably bore a special obligation to practice fair employment. Yet, figures painted a pattern of discrimination. A 1958 study of the phone company had revealed that out of a workforce of 7,000, African Americans comprised only 121 employees, and 92 percent of these were in custodial positions. By July 1963, the company had 9,000 employees, 123 of whom were black. Consistent with the earlier numbers, eighty-four of these were custodians. (21)
In early negotiations with ACTION, these firms hedged on disclosing the number of their black employees, or attributed black workers' absence in many classifications to the preferences of white customers. Echoing common white anxieties about black male criminality, company representatives claimed that many St. Louis residents did not want unfamiliar black men entering their homes to install phones or read gas meters. McDonnell Aircraft, the city's largest single employer, refused even to meet with ACTION representatives to discuss matters of black hiring and upgrading. Despite such resistance, these large firms were vulnerable to negative publicity if their discriminatory practices were exposed. In the end, ACTION's leaders calculated, these were the firms that could grant real concessions to St. Louis's black working class.
Major Organizational Campaigns, 1965-67
Along with its male-centered and working-class focus, the character of its tactics thrust ACTION into the local spotlight. Because they belonged to a purely indigenous organization, members were able to chart a course independent of any national office. During the spring and summer of 1965, when ACTION first exploded in a flurry of motion, members frequently grabbed news headlines through unorthodox, though tightly structured, activities that transformed civil disobedience into guerrilla theater. On April 18, ACTION workers assembled at the telephone company building on Tenth and Pine Street. Interlocking their arms, they walked into the middle of the street and blocked evening rushhour traffic. Green and another ACTION member, Hamid Khalil, lay down in the street in front of the building, while other demonstrators ignored police orders to disperse. Homeward-bound motorists were stalled for almost thirty minutes before authorities arrested Green and Khalil for peace disturbance and obstructing traffic. (22)
Downtown demonstrations continued weekly. Militant Civil Rights workers experimented with another gimmick on August 10, when they staged a "splash-in" at the phone company. Using paint buckets and dippers, men and women spent a full hour hurling black-tinted white paint at doors and windows. Always handy with an explanation for their flamboyant contrivances, they explained they were showing that Southwestern Bell executives' gestures toward hiring black workers were nothing more than "an integrated whitewash." Plainclothes police with walkie-talkies observed the demonstration from strategic positions around the building, but made no arrests. Later that same month, as downtown protests continued, ten ACTION members gathered in front of Laclede Gas's main office, chanting and carrying signs that castigated the firm for its lack of black meter readers. They marched for forty minutes under a construction scaffold in drizzling rain, and as employees left the building for home, demonstrators began dipping sponges into the rain puddles on the asphalt. Moistening sheets of ACTION "freedom stamps," they stuck them to the office building's windows and doors. Crossing Olive Street and shortcutting through a parking lot, they resumed the demonstration and "freedom stamping" in front of the telephone company as employees began to leave. (23)
In a concurrent thread of activity, the organization fought the formidable McDonnell Aircraft Corporation over its noncompliance with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The aircraft giant had a poor image among many black St. Louisans, who referred to the company as "Daddy Mac"--both an acknowledgment and a derision of its paternal image as the St. Louis area's largest industrial employer. Green's own troubles with the company extended back to August 28, 1964, when the firm fired him as a radio and electric mechanic, a position he had held for seven years. Coming a month and a half after his televised exploits on the beams of the Gateway Arch, he had ample reason to believe his dismissal stemmed from his well-known political work. Protesting his own dismissal, and McDonnell's hiring and upgrading procedures, Green and a group of activists had staged an automobile "stall-in" in October 1964, tying up employees' cars near the plant. In July 1965, Civil Rights workers hit McDonnell again, this time with a "lock-in" at the company's downtown offices on Twelfth and Delmar Boulevard. The organization had, that same day, filed charges of employment discrimination with the new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that of the 500 African Americans employed among McDonnell's 35,000 workers, ninety percent did menial and janitorial labor. The charges also claimed that personnel administrators discouraged black workers at the company from participating in on-the-job training programs and other vehicles of promotion. ACTION's demands centered on the immediate hiring of 1,700 black men and women at McDonnell, the upgrading of black McDonnell employees into all job categories, and Green's own reinstatement to his former position with back pay. The ACTION chairman recently had applied for a mechanic position when the corporation began rehiring laid-off employees, but was not rehired. As this theater of action evolved, Green's personal quarrel with the corporation became inseparable from the larger organizational drive to break the color line in many of the company's job classifications. (24)
ACTION's campaign against these local businesses had a powerful point of convergence in members' protest against the city's annual Veiled Prophet parade and ball. Melding city boosterism, secret society ritual, Mardi Gras carnival, and debutante soiree, the affair also harkened back to the city's French-Creole origins. Both the public parade, and the exclusively private ball, revolved around the masked, enigmatic Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, selected from St. Louis's business elite. The Mystic Order of the Veiled Prophet of the Enchanted Realm, the organization coordinating the yearly events, provided civic leaders an avenue through which to advance careers and introduce their daughters into St. Louis's "high" society. This further consolidated the already dense relations among the city's brahmin class, most of whom already worked together in Civic Progress and Downtown St. Louis, Inc., and shared membership on the same corporate boards of directors. To militant Civil Rights workers, the Veiled Prophet Organization embodied the governmental, business and civic forces that denied African Americans a humane quality of life, either by active discrimination, indifference, or "lip-service liberalism" bereft of deeds. For most ACTION members, historian Thomas Spencer maintains, "the Veiled Prophet celebration symbolized racism and white control of St. Louis's economy," especially because this exclusive, whites' only organization held its gala ball at the Kiel Auditorium, a public tax-supported institution. Because many of the local Civic Progress elite also belonged to the Veiled Prophet organization, activists viewed disrupting the celebration as a way to hit all of the major business executives at once in their campaign for better-paying jobs. (25)
Its confrontational style notwithstanding, ACTION's program fit within a general Civil Rights jobs focus combining nonviolent protest, legal action, and appeals to federal bodies. St. Louis NAACP representatives, for instance, had undertaken attempts in 1963 and 1964 to improve black employment at Lever Brothers Company, a manufacturer or soaps and detergents. "Full Employment Plus Civil Rights Mean Freedom" had been a slogan among the Jefferson Bank boycotters, which revealed how activists perceived both economic justice and political representation as central to black citizenship. (26)
"Integrationist" Strategy, "Black Power" Adaptations
On a plane parallel to its sorties against the utilities, McDonnell, and the Veiled Prophet, ACTION interfaced with an emergent black nationalist groundswell evident by 1966. A renaissance occurred with the transformation of SNCC and CORE, and the development of new organizations like the Revolutionary Action Movement, US Organization, and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Similar sentiments supported the formation of militant black union caucuses, and propelled demands for Black Studies curricula on college campuses and universities. The northern-based character of these organizations and activities was evident of how the movement's center had shifted to the urban areas of the Midwest, Northeast, and West Coast. Indeed, many veterans of the southern campaigns sought to develop programs that matched conditions in northern ghettoes. This new spirit reflected a general militancy among black youth, one that disputed the hegemony of nonviolent action in the Civil Rights struggle.
St. Louis was part of a national "riot cluster" that exploded in the late summer of 1964 in Harlem, North Philadelphia, and Paterson, New Jersey. In early July 1964, what began as a sick call to police on St. Louis's near North Side snowballed into a civil disorder when officers attempted to break up a fight between two siblings. During an hour-long confrontation, a large group of mostly black teens and young adults lobbed rocks and bottles at a gathering force of 40 policemen and 25 cruisers on Leffingwell Avenue. The skirmish ended when police scattered the crowd with tear gas grenades. Nine officers were injured, and three people arrested. In June 1965, following the police shooting death of a young burglary suspect, angry crowds of black St. Louisans shouted epithets and jostled police during scattered neighborhood disturbances. By early September, when St. Louis policemen shot another black youth during an alleged school break-in, many feared the outbreak of civil violence on the magnitude of Watts barely a month earlier. (27)
Threats of Black Power insurrection hovered, too, at the edges of many nonviolent demonstrations. Following an ACTION protest against the Veiled Prophet Parade in October 1965, some 100 black youth took to Delmar Avenue, smashing automobile and store windows. Police dispersed them as they moved west along the street. As another "long hot summer" loomed in May 1967, black St. Louis activists made preparations for a protest rally against the lack of trash removal from a neighborhood near Compton Avenue and Caroline Street. Twenty-five ACTION workers raked debris from a vacant lot into Compton Avenue, partially obstructing late afternoon traffic. When police responded to motorists' complaints about the blockage, area residents pilloried them, and passing cars, with bottles, brickbats and verbal taunts. During the four-hour melee, police attempted to clear Compton by throwing the trash at sidewalk bystanders, and two ACTION members--Precious Barnes and John McClain--lay in the street to further block traffic. Three drivers were injured, and seven vehicles damaged, by missiles. One rioter was hurt, and three others arrested. Even many of ACTION's own protest tactics revealed how thin the line was between nonviolent action and urban rebellion. A month after the clash on Compton Avenue, police arrested Green and three other ACTION members at the group's headquarters after two Wonder Bread delivery men reported the tires of their trucks deflated. Neither could identify any of the four Civil Rights workers as the vandals, and they were not charged. Yet, ACTION members at the time had been distributing leaflets urging readers: "Let the air out of the tires of all Wonder Bread trucks, Southwestern Bell trucks, Laclede Gas trucks, Union Electric trucks and Krey Packing Co. trucks. These companies just will not give Negro husbands and fathers decent-paying jobs to provide for their families." (28)
Still, the new black nationalism amounted to more than simply unharnessed rage without foundation or substance. Downtown growth schemes, the "subsurvival" living conditions of many African Americans, and the Lyndon Johnson administration's declared War on Poverty, were all part of the framework in which Black Power was articulated. Completed in the 1960s, three expressway routes connected downtown with outlying St. Louis County. Mayor Alfonso J. Cervantes, along with the presidents of the city's three largest universities and the chairman of the St. Louis Regional Commerce and Growth Association, were all ex-officio members of Civic Progress whose outlook shaped local land-use policy. Between 1967 and 1969, the Cervantes administration declared as blighted five city blocks downtown, making the area ripe for redevelopment. The soaring, 630-foot Gateway Arch opened to the public in 1967-68, and the vaunted riverfront renaissance proceeded with several other construction projects, including Busch Memorial Stadium, the Pet Incorporated Building, the Stouffer Riverfront Inn, and the Ralston Purina Building and Checkerboard Square. (29)
But by 1968, St. Louis also had one of the highest concentrated ghettoes among the major northern and border cities, and the nation's highest infant mortality rate. The Gateway City was one of the few major cities that had not experienced serious rioting, though on the basis of statistics, observers noted, it could yet become the nation's most riot-scarred city. Because of their intent on clearing blighted property for high-priced renewal, officials were lax in the enforcement of building codes. One consequence was the underreported problem of lead poisoning among black children, who often ate flecks of peeling plaster and paint. The metropolitan area also had one of the nation's worst cases of black "hardcore joblessness," with 60,000 African Americans fitting this description. The low rates of job placement by the Human Development Corporation, the city's main antipoverty agency, also dashed expectations of a comprehensive remedy to their problems. Public assistance benefits, moreover, ranked among the lowest in the country, while inner-city residents paid six percent more for groceries than suburbanites at the same chain supermarkets. St. Louis's Freedom of Residence committee, and the Open Housing Act of 1968, may have broken many barriers to fair housing, but a growing number of black St. Louisans literally could not afford to take advantage of these new opportunities, which intensified urban grievances. (30)
Further, Great Society-linked neighborhood organizations like St. Louis's Mid-City Community Congress (MCC) and the West End Community Conference gave many would-be Black Power advocates an institutional foothold beyond mere rhetoric. Younger activists addressed varied issues of chronic unemployment, inadequate housing, black electoral power, and economic development. The city's black-owned Gateway National Bank opened in 1965, while the Supreme Court ordered a reapportionment of Missouri's congressional districts. The ruling boosted North St. Louis's electoral power, creating the conditions for William L. Clay--a former alderman, Jefferson Bank boycotter and ward committeeman--to become the state's first black U.S. Congressman in 1968. All of these developments embodied the nationalist self-assertion of the period.
Because ACTION was born at the pregnant moment when the slogan "Freedom Now" was transforming into "Black Power," its members, too, were informed by the movement's political and cultural trajectory. In fact, several core elements of "Black Power" already were embedded in ACTION before Willie Ricks and Stokely Carmichael uttered the phrase for a new generation of movement workers. From the outset, the organization kept its headquarters in St. Louis's solidly black Ville area, and its agenda revolved around building the community's own internal reserves. As the decade proceeded, many ACTION workers also cultivated a stylistic presence more akin to Black Power than Civil Rights. Many black male members often wore dark berets decorated with stars, army field jackets, denim jeans, work boots, or African-print vests and dark sunglasses. Some of these accessories may have been nothing more than the leisure wear of the working-class members and ex-army veterans who formed part of the organization's base. Still, this sartorial style was also popular among the young urban black nationalists influenced by revolutionary guerrillas in Latin America and Africa. The organization, in fact, developed a youth auxiliary whose membership sported dark T-shirts emblazoned with the words "A.C.T.I.O.N. Guerrilla Force."
Culturally, the organization also sponsored a Black Veiled Prophet Ball, and while it was conceived as a lampoon of the regular Veiled Prophet soiree, it nonetheless served as an affirmation of black culture. First held in 1966, the ball reflected a new "Black is Beautiful" ethos that flaunted African robes, headwraps, and natural hairstyles. Female attendees particularly rejected European standards of physical loveliness. During the late '60s, Mitchell's interest in Black history became the basis for forming an ACTION history department, which he chaired. The committee distributed weekly questionnaires on African American history, delivering them on routes primarily in black neighborhoods. This interaction, along with Mitchell's prior involvement with Chicago's Southside Community Art Center, were the geneses for a community-driven mural project to bring art and history to the public, and serve as a motivational tool for black youth. Assembling a small group, Mitchell coordinated the "Wall of Respect" painting at the intersection of Leffingwell and Franklin. Begun in the summer of 1968, the mural featured a collage of sixteen famous faces, including Jomo Kenyatta, W.E.B. DuBois, Muhammad Ali, Ray Charles, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. Marcus Garvey's famous quote, "Up You Mighty Race," underscored the images. A potent cultural symbol, the Wall of Respect became, after its completion, a popular meeting place for young black artists, political speakers and organizers. (31)
ACTION's organizational rhetoric evinced a similar fusion of certain liberal and black nationalist influences. The strongly masculinist leadership style of many Black Power proponents, and their keenly felt need to "reassert" black manhood, meshed with ACTION leaders' own liberal-derived convictions that African American men had been emasculated, making their communities vulnerable to a culture of poverty. And while not eschewing a Civil Rights label, members defined ACTION in much broader terms as a "human rights protest organization" seeking to elevate economic justice above Big Business concerns. ACTION's stance on "armed self-help" was similarly enigmatic. SNCC and CORE publicly endorsed activists' right to self-defense in 1966. Taking theoretical cues from Algerian revolutionary Frantz Fanon, other movement workers viewed violence, turned against one's oppressors, as a necessary catharsis for the oppressed. This rhetoric became a pronounced feature of the Black Power militancy, though ACTION members remained committed to their nonviolent roots. Nevertheless, members periodically participated in survival training in wooded areas outside the city. "I don't belittle those who talk violence," Green said of the new generation of young black militants. "I don't condemn or condone them. But the way to deal with them is by rectifying the system." Consistent with many ACTION founders' earlier involvement in CORE, adherence to nonviolence was strategic, not philosophical. (32)
The presence of whites, who comprised about 40 percent of ACTION's membership, also confused the outside observer who may have imagined it the stereotypical black nationalist group disdainful of white participation. At a time when white members resigned from CORE and SNCC amid internal strife, or were expelled, ACTION remained stridently interracial. This position was not without controversy among some black members, who viewed the strategy as outdated. "I joined ACTION in 1965 because it was the most militant group in St. Louis," complained Precious Barnes, a postal worker who led many of ACTION's demonstrations in 1968. "Now there are groups that ... look a littler farther." Others were unapologetic about the organization's membership policy, arguing that white members--many of them professors, doctors, lawyers, even workers--possessed valuable information and resources otherwise unavailable to working-class black insurgents. While rebuffing the racial insularity of many younger black militants, ACTION's leadership simultaneously served notice to white members that they would participate in ACTION on terms defined by African Americans. Black activists occupied all top positions of leadership in the organization, which gave them the central role in their own struggle, reinforcing their efficacy as agents of social change. "[O]ur concept," Green later recalled, "was that black people deserve the right to make mistakes for black people, rather than white people make mistakes for us." (33)
Involvement with St. Louis's Black Liberation Front
This approach to interracialism was consistent with ACTION's cooperation with the nationalist Black United Front (later renamed the Black Liberation Front). A loose coalition formed around 1968; it included CORE, ACTION, the Mid-City Community Congress, the Jeff-Vander-Lou Community Action Group, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Ministerial Allance, and New Voice, a collective based at the Pruitt-Igoe projects. Two other organizations became visible participants in and around the front. The Zulu 1200s, formed in November 1967, was an arm of the Mid-City Community Congress, and though it functioned autonomously, the group operated out of the MCC's Delmar Boulevard headquarters. Many of its members had been involved in the Wall of Respect project. A second group, the Black Liberators, formed in early 1968 with close ties to the Zulus. Liberators founder Charles Koen, a dynamic young organizer from southern Illinois, patterned the organization after the Black Panthers. Like them, the Liberators wore black berets and leather jackets, and ran a "Feed the Children" program. At the invitation of Rev. Matheus, the Liberators frequently used St. Stephen's Episcopal Church as a base of operations. They also published a newspaper, The Black Liberator, printed in East St. Louis. Privately, many ACTION members were critical of the Liberators, whose gun-toting exploits brought them to the verge of armed confrontation with St. Louis police. But as with other organizations in the Black United Front, the basis for the ACTION-Liberators collaboration lay in their overlapping constituency among disaffected and energized black youth, and their common antiwar work with black and white students at the city's universities and community colleges. (34)
As plans unfolded for the SCLC's Poor People's March in the nation's capital, members of the front threatened a smaller scale gathering at the upcoming Gateway Arch dedication ceremonies. They presented Mayor Cervantes with a fifteen-point mandate that included upgrades for black municipal workers, city contracts for black businessmen, greater recruitment of black police officers, and a restructuring of St. Louis's federally funded Model Cities program. No march occurred at the ceremonies, however, and neither does its appear that the Cervantes administration took the protesters' demands seriously. Against the backdrop of a massive St. Louis public housing rent strike, the abandonment of the War on Poverty, and the urban neglect by the new administration of Richard Nixon, the Black Liberation Front entered another theater of struggle. James Forman, SNCC's former executive secretary, garnered national attention in May 1969 when he interrupted services at New York City's Riverside Church to present a co-authored "Black Manifesto." Published by the Detroit-based Black Economic Development Conference (BEDC), the document called for white national-level Christian church organizations to render $500 million in reparations for the funding of a southern land bank, business cooperatives, and other ventures. The BEDC steering committee called for a widespread campaign of civil disobedience that would expose organized Christianity as a source of black oppression, and as an institution that owed a debt. Beginning in the summer of 1969, ACTION and the Black Liberation Front launched separate series of disruptions at St. Louis's major churches. Performed during weekly services, these "Black Sunday" demonstrations were similarly geared toward exacting millions of dollars in reparations from wealthy Christian institutions. Protesters distributed copies of the "Black Manifesto," castigated white clergy and their congregants for turning a blind eye to urban poverty, and directly implicated the churches in the ownership of slum properties. ACTION workers called on the Missouri Episcopal Diocese and the St. Louis Catholic Archdiocese to, among other things, publicly list all their property holdings, and end any investments in Laclede Gas, Union Electric, Southwestern Bell, and McDonnell-Douglas. (35)
ACTION militants also targeted for harassment local black ministers who criticized the church interruptions, yet remained mute about the racism of St. Louis's secular and religious institutions. In August and September 1970, members of the ACTION Guerrilla Force invaded services at two black churches, where they carried signs and distributed pamphlets attacking several ministers. Invoking cultural-religious discourses of Black Power, the youth criticized the white imagery dominating the scenery of most African American churches. On a second visit to the New Bethlehem Baptist Church, an 18-person phalanx stood along the center aisle while a Guerrilla Force leader walked to the back of the altar and painted a statue of Jesus with black paint. Dual issues of clerical social responsibility and black religious representation merged in November 1970, when the nation's only African American bishop, Harold Perry, visited St. Louis's Old Cathedral downtown. Mitchell, Matheus, and four Guerrilla Force members--entering despite efforts to lock the doors--surprised attendees at evening mass. The four youth carried on their shoulders, mounted upright on a board, a black department store mannequin adorned with an afro wig, jewelry and green cape. A sign around the statue's neck read "Black Madonna." "We want to present this to Bishop Perry as a symbol for black Christians to join in the fight for human rights in St. Louis," Mitchell explained, then the group quickly departed. Ultimately, neither the local nor the national reparations campaign fully realized its goals. Yet, activity in St. Louis and elsewhere was successful in the much more significant goal of bringing the issue of reparations to a national audience in the early 1970s, and spotlighting the structural nature of black inequality and white privilege. ACTION's work with the Black Liberation Front, including its efforts around the issue of reparations, demonstrated how the organization's energies were simultaneously focused and diffuse. That is, ACTION's reformist goal--improving employment opportunities vis-a-vis the '64 Civil Rights Act--provided a foundation for members' deepening commitment to challenging concentrations of power held by a small local elite. (36)
The Decline of Black Insurgency, and ACTION's Dissolution
By the early 1970s, ACTION members were organizing determined campaigns against slum-owning landlords, and intensifying efforts against the utilities. Obstinate efforts against McDonnell-Douglas also continued. ACTION had issued a four-page report in July 1969 detailing the extent of racial discrimination practiced by the corporation. Drawing on his own federal statistics, Congressman Clay wrote the firm's president, James S. McDonnell, urging him toward reform. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts also entered the fray, calling for a review of a $7.7 billion fighter contract the U.S. Department of Defense had recently awarded the company. In January 1970, while his own lawsuit against McDonnell-Douglas moved through the courts, Green testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He used the opportunity not only to air many black workers' grievances with the corporation, but also to blast the Defense Department for giving the firm lucrative contracts. ACTION's campaign against the Veiled Prophet also reached an apotheosis. During the December 1972 ball, Gena Scott, "disguised" in full evening dress, used a spotlight cable to slide from the balcony rafters and land near the masked icon. Despite injuring herself, she managed to rush the figure and remove both his veil and crown before being ushered away and arrested. The caper ignited a scandal in the press and an outcry among civic and corporate leaders. Maintaining their deference, most of the major local media withheld the name of the exposed prophet, though the St. Louis Journalism Review revealed his identity as Tom K. Smith, an executive vice president of Monsanto and a Civic Progress alumnus. (37)
If ACTION did not achieve all of its members' aims, the organization nevertheless accomplished more than critics admitted. The 1964 Gateway Arch demonstration helped spur the creation of minority apprenticeship and outreach programs in construction, creating a standard for similar efforts in Philadelphia, New York City, and San Francisco. In 1967, the Justice Department dropped its charges against St. Louis's Building and Construction Trades Council and two of its unions; a judge dismissed the remaining charges a year later. Nevertheless, new affirmative action mandates helped black construction workers win access to skilled trade jobs. ACTION also helped secure the hiring of more African Americans in meter reading and telephone installation jobs. The combined pressure of ACTION-led work shut-downs, and an EEOC suit, forced Laclede Gas to announce, in August 1976, a plan for hiring minorities for 40 percent of new job openings. In challenging a federal contract to McDonnell-Douglas, the organization's efforts helped pressure the corporation into changing its hiring and upgrading policies. Through a series of appeals, Green's suit also made its way before the U.S. Supreme Court. In Green v. McDonnell-Douglas Corporation (1973), the Court ruled that plaintiffs in a racial discrimination suit need only establish "minimum proof" that they were denied employment, or discharged, due to racism; the burden of proof then fell on employers. Like the Arch controversy, the Green case bcame the model for subsequent employment discrimination suits. In harassing the Veiled Propher Organization, moreover, ACTION attacked a hegemonic symbol of financial, governmental, and corporate influence over the city's affairs, and black workers' lives. In masterminding the Veiled Prophet's exposure, the organization stripped the seemingly omnipotent idol of its mystique, and symbolically undermined the rituals of power the affair embodied. On the heels of a successful class-action suit instigated by ACTION, the Veiled Prophet Organization had to relocate its annual ball to a private venue in 1974. (38)
At the same time these victories occurred, the wave of mass-based ferment, which had buoyed movement organizations like ACTION, was ebbing. The War on Poverty--which rested on an assumption of black cultural pathology, and never received the funding commensurate to its ambitious goals--succumbed first to war in Vietnam, then reaction at home. Political repression by local, state and federal authorities also fed the movement's decline. Like a number of national organizations, ACTION, the Zulus and the Black Liberators were targets of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which director J. Edgar Hoover launched to subvert Civil Rights, Black Power, and antiwar activity. ACTION weathered this harassment more effectively than the Liberators and the Zulus, which both faded out of existence in 1969. On many fronts, Nixon's electoral triumphs in 1968-72, and construction worker riots against anti-war demonstrators in St. Louis and New York, signaled a decided shift to the right in American social and urban policy. Ironically, the success of the African American revolt also contributed to political demobilization. A black middle class, molded in the crucible of Civil Rights and Black Power, emerged in the professions, the corporate elite, and municipal politics. As early as 1970, the local St. Louis press gave favorable publicity to the private business ventures of militant-talking blacks, and even President Nixon could endorse a "Black Power" construed as business development. (39)
Opposition to affirmative action employment policies grew amid declining economic conditions, decreasing union membership, and heightened competition for work. When ACTION's leadership chose to disband around 1982, the decision reflected both a dispersion of members and a reassessment of its effectiveness in the changed conditions of the post-1975 period. Margaret Phillips, a white former member, attributed ACTION's end to an inability to develop a program beyond "jobs." Thus, while the organization helped expand employment opportunities for black working people, its leadership never formulated a sustainable response to central-city decline, which eviscerated many of the breadwinner jobs advocated by Civil Rights militants. As in other old urban centers, unemployment and means-tested welfare programs placed greater demands on St. Louis's budget. At the same time, industrial-commercial flight, and tax abatements granted to downtown developers by Cervantes and subsequent mayors, shrank the city's tax base and constricted vital social services. By 1975, the Pruitt-Igoe complex was destroyed, the first high-rise public housing project in the nation to face the wrecking ball. While new corporate headquarters scraped the downtown sky, City Hall closed Homer G. Phillips Hospital, which had been a source of pride and identity among black St. Louisans. At decade's end, St. Louis epitomized, for many residents in the surrounding St. Louis County, the danger and dysfunction inherent in urban life. In 1980, two urban sociologists ranked the Gateway City the nation's second most depressed city, on the basis of housing stock, per capita income, and degree of population decline. By the early '80s, when black St. Louisans comprised 46 percent of the city's 453,000 residents, the African American working class that undergirded the Civil Rights and Black Power struggles had become a "subproletariat" consigned to menial service jobs at the margins of a new postindustrial urban economy--one oriented toward recreation, tourism, corporate capital and private universities. (40)
Just as ACTION had been continuous with previous threads of social insurgency, other protest organizations followed in its wake. In 1980, a group of Black Power veterans formed the Organization of Black Struggle (OBS), and invited Green to sit on its advisory committee. Although OBS worked most directly around the issue of police brutality, its members were part of a progressive coalition committed to electing a black mayor. These grassroots efforts paid off in 1993, when St. Louisans elected Freeman Bosley, Jr. the city's first African American mayor. Green accepted an appointment as the head of the city's minority-participation program, charged with monitoring and enforcing racial minority and female access to city contracts. Bosley's election, and Green's position, demonstrated the remarkable progress achieved by the black revolt, though most black St. Louisans remained mired in deteriorating conditions that neither an African American mayor, nor the fair vetting of business contracts, could ameliorate. By 2001, St. Louis ranked as the nation's ninth most segregated city, riven by high black unemployment and low household income. The building trades, meanwhile, remained a segregated as ever: in 2002, only 5.5 percent of construction workers were black. (41)
Between Civil Rights and Black Power
An assessment of ACTION's origins, its own independent development, and its participation in Black Power politics, reveal that differences among periods of black social ferment, while certainly real, are not as clear as previously assumed. (42) Younger historians' turn away from "discontinuity" and "spontaneity" as overriding themes in black popular movements augurs well for studies of the twentieth-century African American Freedom Movement. Among other benefits, the new historiographical emphasis on "continuity" offers a better view of the complex traditions of black political and intellectual thought that formed the scaffolding of Civil Rights and Black Power struggles of post-World War II America.
One supposed difference between Civil Rights and Black Power is that the latter was interested in broader issues than the former. In this depiction, Civil Rights was concerned primarily with the (middle) "classes," and Black Power with the "masses." But "Black professionals in Baton Rouge and Montgomery did not ride the city buses," Civil Rights veteran Julian Bond admonished historians in 1988, reminding them of the female domestic workers who formed the Montgomery Bus Boycott's base. "Blacks in the middle class in Oklahoma City and Greensboro did not eat at Woolworths and Kresge's, but blue-collar blacks did." (43) The concrete racial-class concerns of working people were not unfamiliar territory to Civil Rights workers. Activists were raising questions about institutional racism, employment, and poverty well before the late 1960s. Some CORE affiliates targeted police brutality and slum housing as early as 1963. SNCC's southern organizing efforts around voter registration and public accommodations, begun in the early 1960s, were part of an overall assault on the abject poverty, indebtedness and political powerlessness that kept many rural black workers in a state of peonage. "Civil Rights" clearly constituted more than middle-class blacks' efforts to ingratiate themselves to whites.
Another purported difference between Civil Rights and Black Power was that the first was nonviolent, while the second advocated forms of violence. This view rests on the assumption that nonviolence was organic to black culture--particularly the black church, which many identify as the source of the southern Civil Rights struggle. In reality, nonviolent direct action was introduced from without by organized pacifists, principally from FOR. For most Civil Rights protesters, nonviolent direct action was not a philosophy, but instead a strategy. The final, overarching assumption about the two periods is that Civil Rights was interracial, and therefore "integrationist," while Black Power was anti-white and "separatist." While it is true that some black nationalist organizations actively opposed coalitions with whites, others helped build multiracial alliances. "Black Power" was not a unified ideology, but rather an umbrella covering diverse, often contradictory, nationalist tendencies. Some involved interracialist practices that upheld the interests of poor and working people across lines of race and nationality. Certainly, Black Power militants during the '60s and '70s offered discourses from which radical white feminists, antiwar, and peace activists borrowed freely. The integrationist/separatist dichotomy also confuses the meanings of "integration" and "assimilation," which are often used interchangeably. In fact, they are quite different terms. "Assimilation" evokes a cultural negation, in this case of black institutions and identity. "Integration," on the other hand, can best be understood as desegregation, or the abolition of legal and structural barriers to black citizenship in the United States. It does not preclude the building of separate black institutions. Thus, "integrationism" might describe not only the provisions of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, but also many of the aims of public officials and avowed black nationalists who sought greater representation in local government and administration during the '70s. (44)
ACTION embodies a conjuncture of these many issues. First, its interracial membership was not contradictory to a black leadership. Second, in their campaigns, members employed methods of nonviolent direct action, though in a more confrontational manner than the Civil Rights moderates who had once dominated CORE. ACTION's nonviolence also served strategic, rather than ideological, purposes. Third, ACTION's goal of expanded black employment and economic development was consistent with mainstream Civil Rights activism, as well as certain trends of Black Power. In this vein, attacking racial discrimination was not in conflict with the goal of black institution-building. In fact, the latter has often required the former as a precondition. Fourth, while its reputation was that of a "Civil Rights" group fighting to implement equal opportunity provisions of federal law, ACTION's members also viewed themselves as a "human rights" organization attempting to undermine institutional racism and economic inequality at their most fundamental level. One can view ACTION's reparations campaign, and its battle against the Veiled Prophet, in this light. Fifth, while the organization's name included an antiquated term, "Negro," suggestive of its Civil Rights origins, ACTION participated in local Black Power politics.
Likewise, the organization drew its personnel from a variety of demographics: white clergy, peace activists and university liberals; black skilled professionals; black working-class activists who had gained their formative political experiences during the Jefferson Bank boycott; and black youth steeped in the popular idioms of Black Power. Grappling with ACTION's history helps make the case for why a dichotomous view of Civil Rights and Black Power obscures more than it illuminates. Ultimately, it reduces black political culture to a secession of strategic and tactical opposites--"integrationism" versus "separatism," "non-violence" versus "self-defense," or "peaceful" versus "militant." Drawing such contrasts tends to confirm popular fables about a non-threatening Civil Rights movement that united blacks and whites around a color-blind dream of individual opportunity, and an atavistic Black Power movement that drove them apart through unfair demands for black group rights. A bifurcated approach focused on strategies also evades any real engagement with the substance of black political and intellectual thought, which has informed any number of seemingly contradictory methods.
In understanding "Civil Rights" and "Black Power" as unstable categories, however, scholars must resist the temptation to dissipate them, or collapse them into the same entity. Some, like Timothy B. Tyson and Charles M. Payne, have attempted to transcend the notion of "Civil Rights" altogether, protesting that it is too narrow a label, and says so little about the much longer movement for political, social and economic justice that African Americans have waged. They would put in its place the "African American Freedom Struggle," arguing that it casts the black popular struggles of the 1950s, '60s and '70s in terms broader than simple legislative initiatives, and places its origins before Montgomery. Others, like Tyson and Peniel E. Joseph, favor "Black Power" as a concept enveloping the decades before and after World War II, including the early Cold War of the 1950s. (45)
Such perspectives have powerful appeal, and open vital new avenues of investigation. Yet, the tendency to collapse, or disintegrate, "Civil Rights" and "Black Power" dispenses with historical periodization, and the sense of the motion and change central to comparing and contrasting different moments in time. Without periodization, scholars of the Black Freedom Movement blind themselves to developments that are "new," as well as "old," and efface the evolving nature of movements and movement activists. Folding "Civil Rights" and "Black Power" into a monolith--or obliterating them--oversimplifies African American social movements, the black experience in general, and the shifting economic and political terrain on which both have unfolded. This recreates the same error social historians have made in the past about black popular movements, but this time in reverse: Continuity replaces discontinuity as the central reality of black struggle. Civil Rights and Black Power may indeed have grown "out of the same soil, confronted the same predicaments, and reflected the same quest for African American freedom," as Tyson argues. (46) But this is so generically true as to have little real analytical meaning. Granted, African Americans have fought conditions of racial degradation across time, but those conditions have not been the same over the span of U.S. history. Similarly, black responses to racial oppression and discrimination, while sharing a certain continuity, have been specific to a given historical moment. And while the ideologies that have informed these movements have certain consistencies, ideas are articulated in concrete ways that speak to the needs of a contemporary period. (47)
Thus, in the 1955-65 period, when de jure racism existed, its elimination became critical to achieving political, social, and economic parity. The predominant black movement strategy became nonviolent mass direct action aimed at the edifices of U.S. racial apartheid and disfranchisement. This activity took the form of demands for desegregation, with liberalism as the dominant ideological paradigm. Although these struggles occurred in cities around the nation, the South formed the epicenter of this activity, for it was here that legal racism was most sharply articulated. Strategically, the Civil Rights mainstream crafted a counterhegemonic patriotism, celebrating putatively American national values while simultaneously struggling to transform them. More radical tendencies did exist at this time, but they remained "underground," or were silenced. The 1965-75 period, though it had some continuity with the preceding years, developed in a qualitatively different context. The locus of movement activity shifted from south to north. This reflected both the demise of de jure racial discrimination in the South, and the black migration into urban areas of the Northeast and Midwest that continued into the mid-'60s. By this period profound economic realignments, underway since the '50s, began to register socially, spawning both federal War on Poverty programs and a wave of black urban revolts. Black insurgents therefore confronted a historical moment in which their efforts had outlawed legal racism, yet joblessness and underemployment, police abuse, and similar structures of de facto racial oppression persisted. Activists adopted strategies that were more self-consciously nationalist and radical in ideology, form, and content. Not only did many Black Power advocates see themselves as engaged in revolutionary struggle in the United States, but they also viewed this as a constituent part of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements being fought at the time by other Third World peoples. In this context, once "subterranean" political trends fully surfaced aboveground as black nationalist ideas reached the broad audiences they had lacked during the previous period. These two periods, then, confronted different typologies of racial subjugation. Still, Civil Rights and Black Power are best understood not as distinctly separate entities, or even the same entity, but rather as phases within a broader Black Freedom Movement covering the sweep of African American history. (48)
Nevertheless, it is encouraging that revisionist historians are discovering more instances of continuity between the "Civil Rights" and "Black Power" phases of the Black Freedom Movement. Other studies of black political activism in Philadelphia, New Haven, and Baltimore already have unearthed local protest activity strikingly similar to ACTION's. These indigenous-centered narratives challenge the ways in which historians in the past have conceived of Civil Rights as generically "integrationist," and Black Power as uncomplicatedly "separatist." Black movement scholars' new emphasis on constancy is significant, as it contrasts sharply with an African American historiography, advanced in the past by scholars like August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, that viewed black social insurgency as fragmented and discontinuous. Yet, documenting the theoretical and strategic continuities between "Civil Rights" and "Black Power" should not become an avenue for reducing them to a singular, indivisible existence, or disintegrating them. (49)
More than just historiographical issues are at stake in reassessing the history of the Civil Rights and Black Power struggles of the 1960s and '70s. In the popular American imagination, the call for "Black Power" is still associated with inchoate rage, violence, and the absence of coherent political objectives. Many still lament Black Power as a nihilistic turn toward "separatism" that sparked the urban rebellions of the period and created a culturally pathological and un-employable black "underclass" dependent on federal programs. While "Civil Rights" has fared better in the collective national memory, popular presentations have nonetheless emptied it of its substantive meaning--dislodging it from the demands for group rights made before and after 1965, the working-class character of many of these demands, and the unfinished business of the Civil Rights struggle at this historical moment.
A revised, more critical scholarship also offers a yardstick against which to measure contemporary black politics, and a signpost of how contemporary activists have either continued, or sublimated, previous transcripts of struggle. Exactly thirty-five years after Percy Green and Richard Daly dramatized the demand for black skilled construction jobs at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, 900 people converged at Goodfellow Boulevard in North St. Louis, near the ramps leading to and from Interstate Highway 70. A contingent of 300 marched onto the highway. As television news broadcast live from the scene, they fanned across 1-70's five lanes. Chanting "No justice, no peace!" and sitting in the highway, the throng of mostly black protesters stopped rush hour traffic for an hour. The coalition that organized the demonstration was broad-based in character, but its guiding nucleus was a consortium of minority-owned firms. Hence, the protest stemmed from a dispute with the Missouri Department of Transportation about the lack of state highway construction contracts to minority businesses. The contrast between the demand for better-paying jobs in 1964, and business contracts in 1999, speaks to the shifting meanings of economic justice, parity, and opportunity for African Americans in the post-Civil Rights/Black Power era. It falls to historians of the Black Freedom Movement, in part, to deal with these paradoxes in the twenty-first century. (50)
The author wishes to acknowledge James R. Barrett, Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua, Minkah Makalani, Jennifer Hamer, and David Roediger for the insightful comments and suggestions they offered on earlier versions of this paper. Katharine Douglass, Juliet E. K. Walker, Dina M. Young, and Doris A. Wesley also played invaluable roles in the development of this project. The author finally thanks the anonymous readers of the Journal of Social History for their feedback and encouragement.
1. Robert J. Moore, Jr., "Showdown under the Arch: The Construction Trades and the First 'Pattern or Practice' Equal Employment Opportunity Suit, 1966," Gateway Heritage 15 (1994-95): 30-43. See also "CORE Member Gets 30 Days, Is Fined $250 for Climbing Arch," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 15, 1964; "Arch Climber Gets 30 Days, Fined $250," St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 16, 1964; and "Two CORE Members Climb Arch Leg and Refuse Appeals to Come Down," Post-Dispatch, July 14, 1964. These newspaper accounts come from the Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 2, compiled by the Missouri Historical Society Library and Research Center, henceforth referenced as MHS. See also George Lipsitz, A Life in the Struggle: lvory Perry and the Culture of Opposition (Philadelphia, 1988), 84-5.
2. Moore, "Showdown under the Arch," Gateway Heritage.
3. As examples of such literature, see Robert Korstad and Nelson Lichtenstein, "Opportunities Found and Lost: Labor, Radicals, and the Early Civil Rights Movement," Journal of American History 75 (1988): 786-811; Robin D.G. Kelley, Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class (New York, 1994); William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom (New York, 1980; reprt. 1981); Robert J. Norrell, Reaping the Whirlwind: The Civil Rights Movement in Tuskegee (New York, 1985); Michael K. Honey, Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights: Organizing Memphis Workers (Urbana, 1993); John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Urbana, 1994); Beth Tompkins Bates, Pullman Porters and the Rise of Protest Politics in Black America, 1925-1945 (Chapel Hill, 2001); and Kimberley L. Phillips, Alabama North: African-American Migrants, Community, and Working-Class Activism in Cleveland, 1915-45 (Urbana, 1999). See also Steven F. Lawson, "Freedom Then, Freedom Now: The Historiography of the Civil Rights Movement," American Historical Review 96 (1991): 456-471; and Kenneth W. Goings and Raymond A. Mohl, "Toward A New African American Urban History," Journal of Urban History 21 (March 1995): 283-295.
4. Armstead L. Robinson and Patricia Sullivan, eds., New Directions in Civil Rights (Charlottesville, 1991); Adolph L. Reed, "The 'Black Revolution' and the Reconstitution of Domination," in Reed, ed., Race, Politics, and Culture: Critical Essays on the Radicalism of the 1960s (New York, 1986), 61-95; Charles M. Payne, I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (Berkeley, 1995); Clayborne Carson, "Civil Rights Reform and the Black Freedom Struggle," in Charles W. Eagles, ed., The Civil Rights Movement in America (Jackson, 1986); Timothy B. Tyson, "Robert F. Williams, 'Black Power,' and the Roots of the African American Freedom Struggle," Journal of American History 85 (1998): 540-71; Tyson, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power (Chapel Hill, 1999); Thomas M. Spencer, The St. Louis Veiled Prophet Celebration: Power on Parade, 1877-1995 (Columbia, 2000), 114-39; and Peniel E. Joseph, "Waiting till the Midnight Hour: Reconceptualizing the Heroic Period of the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965," Souls 2 (2000): 6-17. Joseph was guest editor of two special issues of The Black Scholar (Fall-Winter 2001 and Spring 2002), devoted to "Black Power Studies." See also Jeanne F. Theoharis and Komozi Woodard, eds., Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside the South, 1940-1980 (New York, 2003).
5. Afro-Americans in St. Louis, Collection 36, Folders 2-20, Western Historical Manuscript Collection, University of Missouri-St. Louis, hereafter referenced as WHMC; William Barnaby Faherty, St. Louis--A Concise History, third edition (Masonry Institute of St. Louis, 1999); Jon C. Teaford, Cities of the Heartland: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Midwest (Bloomington, 1993); James Neal Primm, Lion of the Valley: St. Louis, Missouri, 1764-1980, third edition (St. Louis, 1998); Ernest D. Kargau, Mercantile, Industrial and Professional Saint Louis (St. Louis, 1902); Lana Stein, St. Louis Politics: The Triumph of Tradition (St. Louis, 2002), 13-26; Katharine T. Corbett, "Missouri's Black History: From Colonial Times to 1970," Gateway Heritage 4 (1983): 16-25; Katharine T. Corbett and Mary E. Seematter, "'No Crystal Stair': Black St. Louis, 1920-1940," Gateway Heritage 16 (1995): 82-88; and Lorenzo J. Greene, Gary R. Kremer, and Anthony F. Holland, Missouri's Black Heritage, revised edition (Columbia, 1993).
6. Segregation Scrapbook, MHS; The Ville, Collection 5, Folders 1-2, WHMC; John A. Wright, Discovering African-American St. Louis: A Guide to Historic Sites (St. Louis, 1994); Wright, The Ville: St. Louis (Chicago, 2001); George Lipsitz, The Sidewalks of St. Louis: Places, People, and Politics in an American City (Columbia, 1991); Daniel T. Kelleher, "The History of the St. Louis NAACP, 1914-1955 (MA thesis, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, 1969); and Eric Sandweiss, St. Louis: The Evolution of an American Urban Landscape (Philadelphia, 2001), 11-12.
7. Paul Dennis Brunn, "Black Workers and Social Movements of the 1930s in St. Louis" (Ph.D. dissertation, Washington University, 1975).
8. Mary Kimbrough and Margaret W. Dagen, Victory Without Violence: The First Ten Years of the St. Louis Committee of Racial Equality (CORE), 1947-1957 (Columbia, 2000); Inge Powell Bell, CORE and the Strategy of Nonviolence (New York, 1968); August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights Movement, 1942-1968 (New York, 1973); Patricia L. Adams, "Fighting for Democracy in St. Louis: Civil Rights During World War ll," Missouri Historical Review (October 1985); 58-75; and Aldon D. Morris, The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change (New York, 1984), 128-38.
9. Ernest Calloway Papers, 1937-1983, Collection 11, Box 4, Folder 46, WHMC; Meier and Rudwick, CORE, 71; and Stein, St. Louis Politics, 129-31.
10. Naomi W. Lede, A Statistical Profile of the Negro in St. Louis: Research Report of the Urban League of St. Louis (St. Louis, 1965), 16; Marvin Rich, "Civil Rights Strategy After the March," New Politics 2 (1963): 43-52; and Percy Green, taped interview with Ernestine Hardge, November 30, 1988, transcribed by Nikki Hara, April 18, 1992, "'A Strong Seed Planted': The Civil Rights Movement in St. Louis, 1954-1968" Oral History Collection, Box 1, MHS.
11. Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 2, MHS; Percy Green, taped interview with Ernestine Hardge, and Marian and Charles Oldham, taped interview with Ernestine Hardge, December 12, 1988, "Strong Seed Planted," Box 1, MHS; and "CORE Made Error in Violating Order, Sen. McNeal Asserts," Globe-Democrat, October 21, 1963, 10A.
12. Marian and Charles Oldham, taped interview with Ernestine Hardge, "Strong Seed Planted," Box 1, MHS; Lipsitz, A Life in the Struggle, 76-80; Meier and Rudwick, CORE, 237; Francesca Polletta, "Strategy and Identity in 1960s Black Protest," Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change 17 (1994): 85-114; Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge, Mass., 1981); and James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (1972; reprt., Seattle, 1985).
13. Calloway Papers, Collection 11, Box 1, Folder 2, WHMC; and Primm, Lion of the Valley, 507-8.
14. Stein, St. Louis Politics; Primm, Lion of the Valley, 496-97; and the St. Louis City Plan Commission, History: Physical Growth of the City of St. Louis (1969), 34-5.
15. Lede, A Statistical Profile of the Negro in St. Louis; and Lee Rainwater, Behind Ghetto Walls: Black Family Life in a Federal Slum (Chicago, 1970).
16. Robert Self, "'To Plan Our Liberation': Black Power and the Politics of Place in Oakland, California, 1965-1977," Journal of Urban History 26 (2000): 759-792; and William W. Sales, Jr., From Civil Rights to Black Liberation: Malcolm X and the Organization of Afro-American Unity (Boston, 1994).
17. "New Civil Rights Group Formed Here," St. Louis Defender, February 3, 1965, 3, Calloway Papers, Collection 11, Box 3, Folder 23, WHMC; "ACTION To Present Play," St. Louis Argus, June 4, 1965, 1A; Percy Green, taped interview with Ernestine Hardge, "Strong Seed Planted," Box 1, MHS; and Michael Dixon, "Civil Rights Groups in This Area Have Grown in Last Two Years," Post-Dispatch, August 4, 1965, Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 2, MHS.
18. Lede, A Statistical Profile of the Negro in St. Louis, 20-22; and David M. Streifford, "Racial Economic Dualism in St. Louis," The Review of Black Political Economy 4 (1974): 63-83.
19. ACTION circular, April 20, 1965, in author's possession.
20. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (Washington, D.C., 1965).
21. Percy Green, taped interview with author, August 20, 1997; ACTION circular, April 20, 1965; and Robert Lucken, "Bell Rate Plans Called Too Secret," Globe-Democrat, May 24, 1972.
22. "Local Civil Rights Groups Feud Over Negro Job Progress At Phone Co.," Argus, April 30, 1965, 1A; "Dispute Runs on Phone Co.'s Hiring Policy," Argus, May 7, 1965, 1A; and "ACTION Leaders Here Jailed In Telephone Co. Demonstration," Argus, June 11, 1965, 1A.
23. "ACTION Stages Paint 'Splash In' At Downtown Bell Telephone Building," Argus, August 13, 1965, 1A; and "Civil Rights Group Continues to Picket Utility Companies Here," Post-Dispatch, August 25, 1965, Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 2, MHS.
24. "ACTION Hits 'Mac' With Bias Charge," Argus, July 9, 1965, 1A.
25. Spencer, The St. Louis Veiled Prophet Celebration, 130.
26. Calloway Papers, Collection 11, Box 1, Folders 5 and 10, and Box 2, Folder 14, WHMC.
27. "4 Gas Bombs Hurled into Negro Crowd," Globe-Democrat, July 7, 1964, Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 2, MHS; "Youth--Handcuffed--Shot To Death By A Policeman Here," Argus, June 18, 1965, 1A; and "Policeman Shoots Youth," Argus, September 10, 1965, 1A. See also Matthew J. Countryman, "Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia, 1940-1971" (Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University, 1998), 311.
28. "ACTION Group Obstructs Veiled Prophet Spectacle," Argus, October 8, 1965, 1A; "Crowd Defies Police, Attacks Passing Autos," Post-Dispatch, May 5, 1967; and "4 Arrested in Deflating of Bread Truck Tires," Post-Dispatch, June 18, 1967.
29. Primm, Lion of the Valley, 503; and St. Louis City Plan Commission, History, 33-34.
30. Al Delugach, "The Heart of the Poverty War" series, Globe-Democrat, February 14 and 15, 1968, Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 3, MHS; and Ernest Calloway Papers Addenda, Collection 540, Box 5, Folder 128, WHMC. See also Lipsitz, A Life in the Struggle, 173-74.
31. Luther Mitchell, taped interview with "Sister" Prince, March 9, 1990, transcribed by Nikki Hara, May 3, 1992, "Strong Seed Planted," Box 1, MHS.
32. Percy Green Papers, WHMC; Timothy Bleck, "ACTION, Founded by Group from CORE, Remains Integrated, Takes Nonviolent Line," Post-Dispatch, September 18, 1968, Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 3, MHS; and Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York, 1966).
33. Bleck, "ACTION, Founded by Group From CORE, Remains Integrated, Takes Nonviolent Line," Post-Dispatch, Sept. 18, 1968, Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 3, MHS; and Percy Green, taped interview with Ernestine Hardge, "Strong Seed Planted," Box 1, MHS.
34. James Rollins, taped interview with Ernestine R. Hardge, January 6, 1989, "Strong Seed Planted," Box 1, MHS; and Timothy Bleck, "Black Liberators Represent Type of Militancy Unknown in St. Louis Before This Summer," Post-Dispatch, September 17, 1968, Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 3, MHS. See also Kenneth Jolly, "Reaction to Liberation: Official Response to the Black Liberation Struggle in St. Louis, Missouri," Gateway Heritage 23 (2003): 30-39.
35. "New Negro Group Presents 15 Demands to Cervantes," Post-Dispatch, May 2, 1968, Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 3, MHS; Robert S. Lecky and H. Elliott Wright, eds., Black Manifesto: Religion, Racism and Reparations (New York, 1969); and George Morrison, "Negro Leaders Condemn Confrontations at Churches," Globe-Democrat, June 10, 1969, Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 3, MHS.
36. "2 Members of ACTION Arrested at Church," Globe-Democrat, August 24, 1970; "Black Protest at Church," Post-Dispatch, September 14, 1970; "Incident At Church," Globe-Democrat, September 21, 1970; and "ACTION Disrupts Mass," Post-Dispatch, Nov. 12, 1970, Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 3, MHS. See also Robin D.G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Boston, 2002), 123.
37. Testimony of Mr. Mango Ali, Mr. Ernest Dean, Mr. Percy Green, and Mr. Eugene Hamilton, Hearing Before the United States Commission on Civil Rights, St. Louis, Missouri, January 14-17, 1970 (Washington, D.C., 1970), 106; Tommy Robertson, "Rope Trick By ACTION Unveils The Prophet," Post-Dispatch, December 23, 1972, and "Veiled Prophet Unveiled: Post and Globe Withhold Identity," St. Louis Journalism Review, January, 1973, Percy Green Papers, WHMC.
38. Gerald J. Meyer, "Percy Green's Tactic: Stir Public Outrage," Post-Dispatch, July 12, 1970, Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 3, MHS; Moore, "Showdown under the Arch," Gateway Heritage; and Rudolph Alexander, Jr., "A Mountain Too High: African Americans and Employment Discrimination," African American Research Perspectives 9 (2003): 33-37; and Deborah Jane Henry "Structures of Exclusion: Black Labor and the Building Trades in St. Louis, 1917-1966" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, 2002), 256, 264.
39. Memorandum to Director, FBI from SAC, St. Louis, October 29, 1968, COINTELPRO: Counter-intelligence Program of the FBI (Black Nationalist Hate Groups, File 100-448006), microfilm reel 1; Memorandum to Director, FBI from SAC, St. Louis, January 8, 1969, COINTELPRO (Black Nationalist Hate Groups), microfilm reel 2. See related news clippings in Percy Green Papers, WHMC, and the Negro Scrapbook, Vol. 3, MHS. See also Manning Marable, Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1990, revised second edition (Jackson, MS, 1991), 114-184; Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua and Clarence Lang, "Providence, Patriarchy, Pathology: Louis Farrakhan's Rise & Decline," New Politics (Winter 1997): 47-71; Jefferson Cowie, "Nixon's Class Struggle: Romancing the New Right Worker, 1969-1973," Labor History 43 (2002): 257-283; and Joshua B. Freeman, "Hardhats: Construction Workers, Manliness, and the 1970 Pro-War Demonstrations," Journal of Social History 26 (Summer 1993): 726-744.
40. Robert L. Joiner, "St. Louis Ranked 2nd Most Depressed City in New Study," Post-Dispatch, July 8, 1980, 4A; and Henry, "Structures of Excursion," 271.
41. Joe Holleman, "Colorful Rights Activist to Work for City," Post-Dispatch, November 10, 1993, 14A; Henry, "Structures of Exclusion," 278-79; and Theodore D. McNeal, Jr., "Where Are the Construction Jobs for African-Americans?" Post-Dispatch, January 21, 2002, B7.
42. August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, From Plantation to Ghetto: An Interpretive History of American Negroes (New York, 1966); Meier and Rudwick, "The Origins of Nonviolent Direct Action in Afro-American Protest: A Note on Historical Discontinuities," in David J. Garrow, ed., We Shall Overcome: The Civil Rights Movement in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s (Brooklyn, 1989); Louis Cantor, A Prologue to the Protest Movement: The Missouri Sharecropper Roadside Demonstration of 1939 (Durham, 1969); and Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, Poor People's Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail (New York, 1977).
43. Julian Bond, "The Politics of Civil Rights History," in Robinson and Sullivan, eds., New Directions in Civil Rights Studies, 15.
44. Rod Bush, We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century (New York, 1999); Komozi Woodard, A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics (Chapel Hill, 1999); and William L. Van Deburg, New Day in Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965-1975 (Chicago, 1992).
45. Charles Payne, "Debating the Civil Rights Movement: The View from the Trenches," in Steven F. Lawson and Charles Payne, Debating the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1968 (New York, 1998); and Peniel E. Joseph, "Black Liberation Without Apology: Reconceptualizing the Black Power Movement," The Black Scholar 31 (2001): 2-19.
46. Tyson, "Robert F. Williams, 'Black Power,' and the Roots of the African American Freedom Struggle," Journal of American History, 541; and Tyson, Radio Free Dixie, 3.
47. Dean E. Robinson, Black Nationalism in American Politics and Thought (Cambridge, 2001).
48. Scott A. Sandage, "A Marble House Divided: The Lincoln Memorial, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Politics of Memory, 1939-1963," Journal of American History 80 (1993): 135-167; and Joseph, "Waiting till the Midnight Hour," Souls.
49. Countryman, "Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia, 1940-1971"; Rhonda Y. Williams, "'We're tired of being treated like dogs': Poor Women and Power Politics in Baltimore," The Black Scholar 31 (2001): 31-41; and Yohuru Williams, Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights, Black Power and the Black Panthers in New Haven (New York, 2000).
50. Ken Leiser and Paul Hampel, "Group Demands that 35 Pct. of Jobs on Project Go to Minorities," Post-Dispatch, July 13, 1999, 1; Alvin A. Reid, "Protesters Turning on to Highway 40," American, July 15-21, 1999, 1; Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua, "'No Piece, No Peace': Class Contradictions in the Resurging Black Freedom Movement," The Black World Today, August 2, 1999. http://www.tbwt.com; and Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua and Clarence Lang, "Strategies for Black Liberation in the Era of Globalism: Retronouveau Civil Rights, Militant Black Conservatism, and Radicalism," The Black Scholar (Winter 1999): 25-47.
By Clarence Lang
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Department of History
309 Gregory Hall
810 S. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801-3697
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