Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc. Empowering Communities. Changing Lives. Since 1918
The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis can trace its roots back to 1910, the same year as the founding of the National Urban League. On April 28th of that year a committee of the Social Service Conference and one of the Committee for Social Service Among Colored People met at the Church of the Messiah, pastored by Rev. John Day to determine how they might work together to provide needed social services to the hundreds of blacks whohad fled the South for northern industrialcities like St. Louis seeking jobs and an escape from sharecropping, Jim Crow segregation laws, fear of lynching and the Ku Klux Klan.Roger N. Baldwin, a Washington Universityprofessor who later founded the American Civil Liberties Union, presided over the meeting and explained its purposes, which was “to collect information and report to various committees conditions and needs of people” and to act on those needs not receiving services. At that time those in the black community had many social needs that had been neglected.
One hundred and one years ago in 1918, a small group of black and white St. Louisans came together and founded the Urban League of St. Louis in reaction to the East St. Louis race riot. Many who were impacted by the riot hadfled to St. Louis. Their numbers added to thehundreds of others who were part of the great black migration from the south to northern cites in search of a better life and jobs at companies with federal contracts. This placed a taxing burden on the black community which already had a contained living area with the worst conditions, limited health services, old outdated school facilities, and limited job opportunities along with a high illness and death rate. This was also a time when racial tensions were high in the nation and city. The year before in 1917, St. Louisans passed a segregation ordinance three to one, which was later ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Then home-owners began using social covenants that secured promises from residents never to sell to a black person. Under these daunting conditions, the Urban League of St. Louis began its work of pursuing America’s promise for African Americans. This group of civic-minded individuals, believed to be thefirst of its kind in the city had as its goal,helping new arrivals adjust to the urban environment and alleviating some of the awful conditions they were facing in their daily lives. The Urban League also wanted to assist in easing some of the legal, social and racial tensions. Then as today, no activities or projects aredone without first conducting research andthe development of a strategic plan, prior totaking action. The League’s ongoing effortssince its founding of defusing racial tensions and improving living conditions for African Americans in St. Louis. Although the League began as a social service organization, it has evolved to include: Educational Excellence, Community Empowerment,Economic Opportunity and Civil Rights & Advocacy programs. Today, the Urban League provides a Roadmap To Equality for African Americans and others through partnerships with a variety of corporations, community leaders, governmental and civic institutions. Because of the support of others they are able to stand on the front line of strengthening communitiesand diffusing racial tensions. The St. Louis League is the largest League in the nation and the first to earn a five-starrating and one of two in the country to provide services in two states, Illinois and Missouri. It serves over 100,000 individuals annually, fromits 16 facilities and 45 different programs.
The Urban League Advocates for and Empowers African Americans and others in Metropolitan St Louis by pursuing the following priorities:
Educational ExcellenceEnsuring that all of our children are well-educated and prepared for economic self-reliance in the 21st century through college scholarships, early childhood literacy and Head Start.
Economic OpportunityEmpowering all people in attaining economic self-sufficiency through job training, good jobs, home ownership, entrepreneurship and wealth accumulation. Community EmpowermentProviding basic needs to stabilize disadvantaged families in order to benefit our communities.
Civil Rights and AdvocacyPromoting and ensuring our civil rights by actively working to eradicate all barriers to equal participation in all aspects of American society, whether political, economic, social, educational, or cultural.
The Urban League also engages its clients through membership in four auxiliaries: 1) The Urban League Guild of Metropolitan St. Louis are community volunteers who are dedicated to improving the quality of life for African Americans and others in need in the St. Louis region;
2) The Federation of Block Units is a volunteer organization focused on helping residents of St. Louis communities improve their neighborhoods and quality of life;
3) The Urban League Young Professionals (ULYP) of Metropolitan St. Louis engage and develop future leaders for the Urban League movement; and
4) NULITES (The National Urban League Incentives To Excel Succeed) is a nationwide youth initiative to encourage personal and leadership growth.