Source: Mercantile Library Collection


Weekly protests at dime store and department store lunch counters were a regular sight in downtown St. Louis during the 1950s. The effort to integrate these lunch counters dated back to 1943 when several organizations conducted a letter writing campaign, urging downtown department stores to end discrimination at lunch counters and to hire black women as sales clerks. The stores ignored these requests. On May 15, 1944, a group of black and white women sat down at the Stix, Baer, and Fuller lunch counter and were denied service. The store manager agreed to serve them only if other lunch counters did so first. Members of the recently formed Citizens' Civil Rights Committee then moved their demonstrations to two nearby stores, Famous-Barr and Scruggs, Vandervoort-Barney. The Committee had limited success. Scruggs-Vandervoort-Barney agreed to serve black patrons at its lunch counter but continued to deny them service at its upstairs dining room.

In 1948, the protests continued under the leadership of the recently-formed Congress on Racial Equality (CORE). Demonstrators distributed leaflets outside Stix, Baer, and Fuller and initiated sit-ins at its lunch counter.

CORE changed its strategy the following year and began to target dime store like Woolworth's. In 1954, CORE resumed its negotiations with the major downtown department stores. After a series of controlled tests, the owners of Famous-Barr and Stix, Baer, and Fuller integrated their first-floor and basement cafeterias. Only in 1958 did the department stores fully desegregate their dining facilities. These were important victories for CORE, but many other establishments in the city still denied equal service to African American customers. Civil rights leaders pushed for a more comprehensive solution by urging local lawmakers to pass a public accommodations bill.

CORE turns its a attention to racial discrimination at Woolworth’s
Lawmakers at City Hall consider a public accommodations bill