During this Year of Renewal, we individually and collectively have the opportunity to reexamine our views on race and how they affect our opinions of local, national, and international events. This task may be difficult and uncomfortable at times, but as with any worthy life challenge, the task is simpler when broken down into smaller steps. Accordingly, the Year of Renewal has three goals of which one is to learn about the history of African-Americans in Webster Groves. A reading of North Webster: A Photographic History of a Black Community by Ann Morris and Henrietta Ambrose is an excellent way to start fulfilling this goal.
Although I have lived in St. Louis for over 30 years and in Webster Groves for half of those years, I was not aware of most of the history told in this pictorial book. Ann Morris and Henrietta Ambrose tell the story of one Black community in our area in less than 50 pages of prose and over 140 photos. It is a quick read despite covering over a century of history from about 1850 to 1980.
The names of the persons, institutions, streets, and creeks will be familiar – our church is among the institutions mentioned. But the specifics are not as important as understanding that the African-Americans in Webster Groves built a thriving community that “provided everything they needed for themselves.” They were individuals with hopes, dreams, and fears shared by all Americans living at the time as the photos demonstrate. Their achievements in the setting of racial injustice are inspiring and heartwarming and reflect their ingenuity, resourcefulness, and determination.
I encourage you to take the time to read this book, which is available in the church library. I think you will find the story educational and moving rather than one of despair. I also hope you will join us for other opportunities to learn about the African-American experience in Webster Groves such as the upcoming North Webster walk.
Liu Lin T.