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St. Louis, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Ruth Porter Mall Park

 
 
Ruth Porter Mall Park Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, September 18, 2014
1. Ruth Porter Mall Park Marker
Inscription.  The Ruth C. Porter Mall commemorates the life and legacy of Ruth C. Porter, a tireless activist who left an indelible mark on St. Louis and her home, the West End neighborhood.

At great personal sacrifice, she dedicated her life to eradicating inequality and discrimination, laying the groundwork for the revitalization of the West End, and building bridges between people of every race and class.

Ruth Porter was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and grew up in Chicago, where she first achieved prominence as a community activist. In 1958 the National Conference of Christian and Jews honored her for her contributions to racial understanding. Her work challenged entrenched powers as she fought for the rights of Chicago tenants against absentee landlords and homeowners being relocated to make way for a land-clearance program. When she moved to St. Louis in 1959 she went to work for the Kinloch YWCA where she introduced innovative leadership and tutoring programs and established a kindergarten. Within 10 years, her influence and activism were felt citywide.

Porter became involved with the West End Community Conference,
Ruth Porter Mall Park image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, October 29, 2019
2. Ruth Porter Mall Park
Marker is shown in the background, off the St. Vincent Greenway trail
an interracial organization formed in 1955 by 200 residents aimed at stabilizing the neighborhood when it was threatened by deterioration and impending blight. As part of her work with WECC, Porter founded Kinder Cottage with fellow West End neighbor Marie Fowler, a pre-school program whose concepts of early education pre-dated Headstart. She also established Community Resources, an organization that worked to integrate the city's schools- a goal she felt went unrealized nearly a decade after Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation in public schools. In addition, she served on the boards of the NAACP, where she was the housing specialist, and the Nursery Foundation dedicated to multi-cultural, quality child-care.

A founding member of the Greater St. Louis Committee for Freedom of Residence in 1961, Porter became its first executive director. In this role, she championed the fight for open housing in a city where redlining and restrictive covenants kept many African American families segregated. Porter's struggle to challenge these long-standing real estate practices eventually led to a Supreme Court case, Jones v. Mayer in 1968, which prohibited housing discrimination based on race.

In 1966, Ruth Porter's passion for racial and gender equality, building bridges, social justice and the amelioration of poverty,
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led her to seek political office as state representative for the 72nd district. While Porter was unsuccessful in her bid, losing by a very slim margin, she reached out to voters across class lines and in the process threw a monkey wrench into a political machine that was rarely challenged. She used her loss to galvanize her supporters in the formation of a political organization, the West End Democratic Club, focused on educating, registering, and empowering voters in the West End.

Ruth Porter's unflagging work on behalf of the community took its toll on her health. She passed away in 1967. Acknowledging her contributions to the city, just a year after her death the city dedicated land for the 11,500-square foot Ruth C. Porter Mall, extending from Delmar and DeBaliviere to Etzel.

On June 20, 1983, a ceremony was held to further celebrate her contributions and achievements with the dedication of a mural on the west exterior wall of the Northside Preservation headquarters located at 5647 Delmar. A team of 22 students from the St. Louis Honors Art High School, working under the direction of nationally known muralist Bob Fishbone, undertook the project with funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Missouri Arts Council, Young Audience, Inc., the St. Louis School Partnership Program, the Northside Preservation Commission, the Greater St. Louis
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Committee for Freedom of Residence, the West End Community Conference and Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.

Ruth C. Porter was an extraordinary woman with an unusual ability to connect to diverse segments of the community. A coalition builder who was also an uncommonly skilled and charismatic presence, she manifested a selfless devotion to improving the world in which she lived.

[Aside:]
Great Rivers Greenway is the public organization leading the development of a region-wide system of interconnected greenways, parks and trails, known as the River Ring. The River Ring will join two states and cover an area of 1,216 square miles. Great Rivers Greenway, formerly known as the Metropolitan Park and Restoration District, was established in November 2000 by the successful passage of the Clean Water, Safe Parks and Community Trails Initiative (Proposition C) in St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County, Missouri. For more information about Great Rivers Greenway, visit www.grgstl.org.
 
Erected by Great Rivers Greenway and Missouri History Museum.
 
Location. 38° 39.257′ N, 90° 17.05′ W. Marker is in St. Louis, Missouri. Marker can be reached from Delmar Boulevard near DeBaliviere Avenue, on the right when traveling west. Marker is on St. Vincent Greenway Trail on the right when traveling north. It is 0.1 miles north from the three-way intersection of Delmar Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5659 Delmar Boulevard, Saint Louis MO 63112, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. "The Knuckle" (within shouting distance of this marker); The Urbanization of a Watershed (approx. 0.2 miles away); Take a Ride, Stroll or Bike on the "DeBaliviere Strip" (approx. 0.2 miles away); "Clang! clang! clang! Goes the trolley!" (approx. 0.4 miles away); Aaaaallllll Aboard! (approx. 0.6 miles away); Where Do We Place Our Public Assets? (approx. 0.6 miles away); Where Will Children Play? (approx. 0.6 miles away); How Else Can a Park Serve Its Community? (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in St. Louis.
 
Categories. African AmericansCivil RightsParks & Recreational AreasWomen
 

More. Search the internet for Ruth Porter Mall Park.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 30, 2019. This page originally submitted on October 29, 2019, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. This page has been viewed 53 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on October 29, 2019, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.
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