Civil rights versus "civic progress": The St. Louis NAACP and the city charter fight, 1956-1957

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This article discusses the campaign that the St. Louis, Missouri, branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People led against a proposed new municipal charter in 1956 and 1957. Many black activists viewed the charter as an attempt to exclude African Americans from city government and policy. They also feared it would facilitate the displacement of black working-class communities in the elite interests of urban redevelopment and "civic progress." This article argues that the charter fight stimulated a civil rights struggle locally, and brought to the fore class conflict among the city's black leadership that would become more pronounced in later decades. This project illustrates that black civil rights agendas encompassed complex issues of urban policy and planning, and structures of municipal governance. Furthermore, it highlights the role black urban working-class movements played in challenging unequal patterns of postwar metropolitan development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-638
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Urban History
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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