Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Priscilla Dowden-White


Andrew Hurley

Walter Johnson


This thesis charts the course of the JeffVanderLou (JVL) organization between the pivotal years of 1966 to 1976, using the life of a man named Macler Shepard as the primary lens of exploration. Born in Marvell Arkansas, Macler Shepard followed in the footsteps of tens of thousands of other Southern migrants to cities like St. Louis, hoping to find a new life in the industrial North. However, no sooner had he settled in, he was displaced by the construction of Pruitt-Igoe, one of St. Louis’ first large-scale urban renewal programs. In response, Shepard became involved in neighborhood organizing, focusing on tackling problems which had made his neighborhood a target for clearance, namely, the lack of good housing. When the City of St. Louis proposed a $90 Million dollar bond issue in 1966 which would have financed a highway to carve through the near-northside, Shepard and neighbors launched an unlikely grassroots challenge, they vowed City Hall would not displace one more black family. They won, proving to themselves that real power lay at the grassroots. Shepard and others argued they could orchestrate their own program, from the bottom up, to revitalize their neighborhood, with the central focus on housing. Through Shepard’s passionate yet pragmatic leadership, JVL became a coalition of partners, from religious institutions to private enterprise, and from medicine, to construction. Over the ten-year span of this thesis’ focus, Shepard and JVL created a measurably successful community development program around Shepard’s one simple saying, “From the house come everything.”