The Longest Day

The Fairgrounds Park race riot of 1949 has been forgotten, just as racism in St. Louis continues to be denied

The summer after the Fairgrounds Park riot, 1950, a federal court ordered St. Louis pools to integrate. Newspaper photos show African-Americans again being trailed by a mob of whites, but this time a troop of policemen follow every step of the way. Don Clooney remembers that things settled down after a while and, by the end of the summer, blacks and whites swam together at Fairgrounds Park without incident.

The joys of that summer were short-lived, though, as the underlying forces of racism pulled people apart, leaving a city abandoned, a people divided.

"Whites moved out," says Seay matter-of-factly -- and they took the dream of integration with them.

Craig LaRotonda
Craig LaRotonda

More than 50 years ago, in the wake of the Fairgrounds Park race riot, the Star-Times published an editorial: "The older middle-class white families move to the county. Negroes move in. The frontier of contact between whites and Negroes spreads. If this frontier is not made a training ground for fair living together, it will become a battleground for racial conflict."

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