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M-362: William Douthit - Urban League

Repository: St. Louis Mercantile Library Special Collections

Title: M-362: William Douthit Urban League Collection

Date: 1950s-1960s

Extent: The collection consists of 12 Hollinger boxes and is subdivided into the following series:

Series 1: St. Louis Urban League Materials

Series 2: Oklahoma City Urban League Materials

Series 3: National Urban League Materials

Series 4: Personal Materials of William Douthit

Most materials are described at the folder level. Some materials are described at the item level. Within this finding aid, materials in the collection are listed according to their folder title and folder number. The folder number consists of three or four numbers, such as 2-3-29, which represents: (series #) – (box #) – (folder #). The William Douthit Urban League Collection is designated as M-362 (Mercantile Special Collection #362).

Location note: These materials are stored off-site. Please review Access Conditions before visiting the library.

Language: English

Scope and Content note: The materials in this collection come from William Douthit’s professional tenure with the Urban League of St. Louis and Oklahama City in various roles, including Executive Director and Secretary of Industrial Relations. The papers in the collection reflect this, with a pronounced focus on employment statistics, reports on industry in the cities, and plans for career training and neighborhood improvement initiatives. Also reflected are collaborations between the Urban Leagues and other local organizations, including the NAACP, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., local churches, and social organizations. Materials are included from the National Urban League as well as the Urban Leagues of other major U.S. cities, usually within the context of research, planning, and communications between the St. Louis and Oklahoma City chapters with the organization on a national scale.

History: The National Urban League was founded in New York City in the early 20th century as the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negros when three organizations merged: the Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes, the Committee for the Improvement of Industrial Conditions Among Negroes, and the National League for the Protection of Colored Women. These organizations all began as grassroots efforts to improve social and economic conditions for the recent migration of African-American to the northern United States following the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson movement in the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The organization adopted its current name in 1920 and began to focus its efforts on improving educational, recreational, housing, health, and career opportunities for disadvantaged communities. While the organization focused primarily on methods for improving the conditions of African-American communities, the stated purpose of the League has always been interracial in nature, dating back the founding interracial board of the League’s first iteration. The N.U.L. is perhaps best known for its participation in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

The Urban Leagues of St. Louis and Oklahoma City were founded in 1918 and 1946, respectively. Both have played significant roles in the desegregation of their cities, as well as leading neighborhood improvement initiatives and career training for the African-American communities.

William Douthit, originally from Pennsylvania, earned a B.A. in Economics from Dilliard University of Louisiana and a masters degree in Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations. Douthit spent much of his professional career with the Urban League, serving as Secretary of the Industrial Relations Department of the St. Louis Urban League (1954-1959), Executive Director the Oklahoma City Urban League (1959-1962), and the Executive Director of the St. Louis Urban League (1964-1969).

Conditions Governing Access note: This collection is currently housed in off-site storage. Please contact the library in advance of your visit if you wish to view these materials. Due to condition, access to some portions of the collection may be restricted at the discretion of the curator. A finding aid has been made available for this collection, available for download below.

M-362 Finding Aid PDF

Preferred Citation note: The preferred citation for this collection is "From the collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at UM - St. Louis."