Five Reasons Black St. Louisans Are Migrating from St. Louis

Bird’s-eye view of the St. Louis riverfront seen from the Illinois shore. The Eads Bridge, completed in 1876, led to the heart of St. Louis’s retail and wholesaling districts. Morgan Street—known since 1933 as Delmar Boulevard—lay a block north of the bridge’s anchorage, defining the northern edge of a rising downtown and the southern extreme of the working-class neighborhoods that would later be known, collectively, as North St. Louis. (Missouri Historical Society)



The mass exodus of Black St. Louisans in recent years continues to raise eyebrows and stir concerns that question where longtime residents are going, but mostly, why they are leaving. This city’s complexities regarding race, class, and land further muddle the reasoning behind Black residents’ migratory patterns and their move to St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Metro East cities, or out of Missouri altogether. For a closer look, check out the leading contributing factors below.


1. Quality of life

St. Louis’s issue with Black population decline largely stems from African-Americans wanting better financial security, which produces a better quality of life. As several areas in St. Louis city suffer from crime infestation and neglect caused by disinvestment, Black residents resort to relocating to areas where they have access to better schools, safer neighborhoods, and higher property values.


2. Generational differences

It is common for every generation to speak a different language, in terms of viewpoint, behaviors, and goals. Older and younger generations of Black St. Louisans are leaving for different reasons. Many older inhabitants may have cited financial security behind their choice to uproot to other parts of St. Louis while younger generations are driven by social and career aspirations.


3. Forced Migration

Over the course of decades, St. Louis–like other American cities–has become a hub for redevelopment projects and urban renewal, much at the expense of its Black residents who are typically the first targeted for displacement. Historically, densely populated African-American areas in St. Louis City–Mill Creek Valley, Pruitt-Igoe, and Pleasant View —were destroyed for the purpose of building interstates and commercial giants. Similarly, Howard-Evans Place in St. Louis County was razed to create a retail center, and Kinloch, which still exists in the County, has been grossly reduced. The mandatory evacuations have left many Black St. Louisans with little choice but to change residences.


4. Housing discrimination

 Redlining–a discriminatory practice that involves the denial of mortgages and other financial services–has long been a hindrance for many African-Americans in the United States. St. Louis is no different. Numbers of Black St. Louisans have experienced White opposition to movement into several of the city’s neighborhoods, including The Ville and suburbs of St. Louis County. In many cases, Black residents eventually conclude that the only way forward is out of St. Louis City and St. Louis County.


5. Class politics

In some instances, socioeconomic status is just as important as racial status when it comes to settling in St. Louis. Numerous Black residents have faced a double obstruction that involves classism in areas like Clayton or the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood, leaving them void of housing solutions in the city. To be clear—running into middle-class Blacks and Whites not wanting lower-class Blacks living in the neighborhood. …



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Five Neighborhoods Impacted by Black Flight in St. Louis

The African-American community in St. Louis continues to shrink at an alarming speed. Check out five historically Black communities that have been disrupted by the outmigration of its longtime residents.


1. JeffVanderLou

Historically, JeffVanderLou (JVL) is a north St. Louis city community that was originally regarded as one of the only communities where Blacks could own land during the Reconstruction Era. Situated near downtown, the area was also widely known as a booming commercial district. Decades of disinvestment and neglect caused the neighborhood’s downward spiral. Now riddled by blight. JVL is still predominantly Black, but school closures and crime infestation have led to many families uprooting in search of a better life elsewhere.


2. The Ville

Originally established as Elleardsville in the late 1800s, “The Ville” was initially home to many German and Irish immigrants. As Black St. Louisans settled there starting in the 1920s, White residents moved to other sections of the city. The Black population in the Ville rose 8 percent to 86 percent in ten years. Sumner High School, Poro College, Stowe Teachers College, and Homer G. Philips Hospital were located in the Ville at its height. After the 1948 Supreme Court ruling that banned restrictive covenants, suburban expansion became a hot topic in St. Louis in the 1950s and 1960s. More Black residents in The Ville sought to relocate further westward because of declining property values caused by crime infestation. By 1970, the population dropped by 38 percent. Between 2010 and 2020, The Greater Ville neighborhood lost more than a fourth of its residents and today fewer than 2,000 people are living in the area, compared to 10,000 people who dwelled there during its peak.



3. Black Jack

Like its neighboring communities in Ferguson and Florissant, Black Jack is a suburban community in St. Louis County that started out as predominantly White with as little as .2 percent of a Black population in 1970. Then, St. Louis City grew overcrowded and many Black residents were displaced. The efforts of Black Jack locals to exclude African Americans from relocating to the neighborhood were imminent. Restrictive zoning rules existed, as well as realtors persuading homeowners to sell their property below value by threatening Black invasion and reselling at inflated prices—a scheme known as blockbusting. However, a mix of factors, like the desegregation of city schools, the rise of redevelopment projects, and the rapid deterioration of historic Black pockets in St. Louis city caused an inevitable uptick of Black movement in Black Jack. As more land continues to be developed past the confines of St. Louis County, particularly in places like St. Charles County where housing prices are less, Black residents are on the move again to enhance their quality of life.


4. Howard-Evans Place

Few people—not even many St. Louis natives–are aware of the historic Howard-Evans Place neighborhood. Once called Brentwood’s “Garden of Eden,” the 22-acre area began in 1907 and was largely comprised of a close-knit network of Black residents, some of whom had lived there for generations. In the mid-1990s, Howard-Evans was targeted for redevelopment, and its residents were bought out in order to make way for what is presently known as The Promenade at Brentwood. While many of its longtime African-American former residents still keep in touch with each other to reminisce about the good old days, they are among the long list of displaced communities in St. Louis that include Mill Creek Valley, Pruitt-Igoe, and Meachum Park. Where did the residents go?


5. Clayton

Like Howard-Evans Place, Clayton was once home to a thriving Black community in St. Louis County in the 1940s and 1950s. Many African-American residents had roots there that dated back to the 1800s. In 1959, parts of Clayton became a site of urban renewal when the city voted to zone the Black residential neighborhood to its business district near or along Brentwood, Hanley and Bonhomme. Consequently, longtime inhabitants were forced out and their homes demolished as developers prepared to build retail centers. Today, less than 10 percent of Blacks live in Clayton since many homes in the area are too pricey for African-American St. Louisans.

Lyndsey Ellis

Lyndsey Ellis is a St. Louis native and Heartland Journalism Fellowship recipient whose fiction and journalism have appeared in a variety of print and online publications. Her debut novel, “Bone Broth” (Hidden Timber Books, 2021), was a 2022 Friends of American Writers Literature Award winner and selected by Maryville University for use in the student curriculum. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English, and holds a master’s in fine arts from California College of the Arts in San Francisco.