If you’re still in town covering Ferguson, or you’re on your way out, here are three places you should check out. They’re not tourists stops exactly, but they offer more context on this city, this region and its history. (With thanks to my former colleagues, now at St. Louis Public Radio, Margaret Wolf Freivogel, Susan Hegger and Donna Korando, for helping with these suggestions.)
The Old Courthouse is on the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, according to the NPS. (You may have already visited if you covered the Rev. Al Sharpton’s news conference here on Aug. 12.) It’s at 11 N. 4th Street, St. Louis. From the NPS:
The Old Courthouse was the site of hundreds of suits for freedom, but one gained notoriety. In 1847, Dred Scott, with his wife Harriet, sued for, and were granted, their freedom. After many appeals, the case was decided upon by the Supreme Court. The decision stated that slaves were property, and as such, had no right to sue. The Dred Scott Decision hastened the start of the Civil War.
– Jefferson Bank and Trust, 2301 Market St., St. Louis:
In this area in 1963, the Jefferson Bank protests took place. In 2013, Robert Joiner, my former colleague at the St. Louis Beacon, wrote about the site and the protests.
The 2600 block of Washington Boulevard is still remembered as the spot marking the beginning of what would become the largest civil disobedience demonstration for economic equality in St. Louis. Launched on Aug. 30, 1963, the protest involved about 150 blacks and whites who gathered outside of what was then the headquarters of the Jefferson Bank & Trust Co. The goal was to prod the bank to hire blacks for white-collar jobs.
– The Shelley House, 4600 Labadie Ave., St. Louis:
This private home is a National Historic Landmark. From the National Park Service:
This modest, two-story masonry residence built in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906 is associated with an African American family’s struggle for justice that had a profound effect on American society. Because the J. D. Shelley family decided to fight for the right to live in the home of their choosing, the United States Supreme Court addressed the issue of restrictive racial covenants in housing in the landmark 1948 case of Shelley v. Kraemer.