Urban League of Metro St. Louis

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis is committed to empowering African Americans in the St. Louis area. They oversee the Vaughn Cultural Center located in Grand Center. In 1982, Missouri Humanities Council (at the time, Missouri Committee for the Humanities) funded programming on literature, St. Louis history, and the aged community. The complete project consisted of a 30-minute film, two exhibitions, a history seminar, and a lecture series.

“Reflections: The Way It Was” was a film with three oral histories from African Americans in the community: a descendent of an enslaved woman, a baseball player, and a jazz musician. The Vaughn Cultural Center hosted a traveling Smithsonian exhibit entitled “Images of Old Age in America”. This exhibit displayed images of elderly people in American society and the social problems of growing older. A second photo exhibit showcased the work of James Vanderzee, a black photographer who captured African American life during the Harlem Renaissance.

The history seminar “St. Louis Belongs to Us All” educated teachers on how to teach local ethnic history with a specific focus on African Americans’ role in shaping the culture of the St. Louis Metropolitan region. The first lecture series discussed the importance of literacy for young Black children and examined the use of Black English in literature and the classroom.

The second lecture series was entitled “Today’s Poet – Mirror and Messenger”. This event featured nationally acclaimed poet and St. Louis native, Maya Angelou. She recited her own poetry, highlighted the cultural themes of African American poetry, and spoke about the need for love of all mankind. Over 2,000 people attended these events in total, making 1983 one of the most successful programming years for the Vaughn Cultural Center and Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.