Renewing Faith in Racial Equality: The Inter-Religious Center for Urban Affairs and Its Challenge to Black Jack, Missouri

Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Dr. Andrew Hurley


Dr. J. Frederick Fausz

Dr. Priscilla Dowden-White

Dr. Peter Acsay


This thesis is a social history that examines the origins, operations, and legal victories of the Inter-Religious Center for Urban Affairs (ICUA)--a predominantly white religious organization that challenged systematic racism in the St. Louis area between 1967 and 1971. To advance social justice, the ICUA used scientific research methods, advocated desegregation based on religious ideals, and sponsored anti-racism training, public lectures, social programs, and informative pamphlets. Its Ecumenical Housing Fund provided seed money for low-income housing developments and a Metropolitan Housing Corporation. I argue that the ICUA’s activism in merging religious ideals with pragmatic public policy advanced innovative social change that successfully challenged racially-discriminatory housing in North St. Louis County. One of the ICUA’s most significant efforts was the planned Park View Heights Development, racially integrated housing to be built in the Village of Black Jack, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. However, construction was halted by white resistance to black suburban migration as residents rushed to incorporate the suburb, granting the newly-created City of Black Jack power to block that development through rezoning. Utilizing the large and invaluable collection of primary source documents in the UMSL archives, this thesis represents the most in-depth research on the ICUA’s victorious anti-discrimination trials that achieved national attention: Park View Heights Corporation v. The City of Black Jack (1972) and United States of America v. City of Black Jack, Missouri (1974).

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