Why St. Louis County quietly removed a memorial to ‘white colonists’
A historical marker in Clayton, Missouri, declared that St. Louis County was “first visited by white colonists” in the early 1700s. The sign was taken down this past November, but a professor says it was a missed opportunity for change.
In 1955, a sign was erected in Clayton, Missouri, that recounted the history of the founding of St. Louis County. According to the sign, that history began when the county was “first visited by white colonists” in the early 1700s.
In November 2022, the sign was gone. It was quietly taken down by the St. Louis County government – and that act represents a victory of sorts for advocates like Geoff Ward, who has spent years asking for its removal.
But Ward, a professor of African and African American studies at Washington University, was disappointed by the fact that the removal was done without announcement. The action was only reported months later by theRiverfront Times.
“I suggested that it would be critical, in removing the marker, that our city leaders or county leaders be vocal about why this is happening,” Ward said on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “So that we use this as an occasion to really see deeper commitments to equal rights, to human and civil rights, and to disavow the white supremacism that is reflected in the marker.”
Ward said that it was also the sign’s placement, on a prominent corner in downtown Clayton, immediately outside St. Louis County Police headquarters, that first drew his attention.
“What's remarkable to me about the sign is that it very explicitly sort of defined St. Louis County as a white place,” he said. “It essentially says history begins here, with the arrival of white people.”
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