Manifestations of Whiteness in St. Louis
But what on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it? -W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of White Folk
In the first quarter of the 21st century, DuBois’ stark question resonates as powerfully as it did in 1919. Following a summer of renewed protest against the police killing of unarmed Black citizens, a group of eight white graduate students and one white instructor gathered to wrestle with this question in a seminar on the History of Whiteness at the University of Missouri—St. Louis during the fall of 2020. Informed by texts from scholars of the whiteness studies movement that emerged in the 1990s, students conducted historical research into the different ways whiteness shaped the history of St. Louis. Most of the students (and the instructor) were new to public history, and as such the exhibits represent our experimentation with the Omeka platform. While the projects may not always conform to the standards of public history, they do represent the students' efforts to curate narratives that examine the role of whiteness in our community. Our collection of exhibits does not claim to present a comprehensive examination of the topic. Instead, each student selected a specific story that might illuminate a different aspect of whiteness in the city’s history. We hope this collection will promote both a critical examination of the historical racism that has limited our community while also identifying narratives that inform us on how to challenge white supremacy in St. Louis and the nation.
-Rob Good, Adjunct Assistant Professor (course instructor)