Ethnic St. Louis Highlights Rich Diversity of St. Louis

Dec. 10, 2015

Ethnic St. Louis Highlights Rich Diversity of St. Louis
Ethnic St. Louis was published recently by Reedy Press and Webster University Press

ST. LOUIS – In the 250 years since the founding of St. Louis, the city has grown into a rich tapestry of cultures. The book Ethnic St. Louis, co-published by Webster University Press and Reedy Press, takes a closer look at the history of the vibrant multi-ethnic city. From the early colonization by French traders, the influx of German and Irish immigrants and the more recent arrivals of Bosnian immigrants, the book examines the cultures that have shaped the city.

 “In the 1900s, St. Louis was the fourth largest city in the United States,” said Laura Rein, dean of University Libraries and editor of Webster University Press. “This book takes a close look at the immigrants that helped the city grow and develop. Through the amazing collection of historical photos you’re able to view the city in a very unique way.”

John Wright, one of the three authors of the book, has had a long and distinguished career as a St. Louis academic leader and is an active member of the community, serving on numerous boards including the St. Louis World Trade Center and the Regional Arts Commission. He is the author of 15 books about regional history, including Extraordinary Black Missourians (2013, Reedy Press). Wright is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Webster University College of Arts & Sciences.

Wright met with a number of community and cultural groups while researching the book.

“I didn’t realize how many festivals and how many organizations there are,” said Wright. “All of these John Wrightgroups were so welcoming and there’s such a richness to these communities and so many are unknown to the rest of the city. I met with Laotians over on Cherokee and they’re hidden in a little house with a storefront next to it. I never knew that the group was there but they wanted me to take part in a service and it was such a good experience to see all of these things.”

Wright said Ethnic St. Louis is important because it creates a written history for all of the cultures in the area and he thinks many people would be surprised to learn the variety of cultures that have called St. Louis their home throughout history.

“St. Louis had a Chinatown before we had an Arch and most people don’t know that,” said Wright. “We have people from all nationalities in the city. People need to recognize and see the richness in the community.”

Wright believes that the book is an important way to preserve this rich culture and educate future generations on St. Louis.

“There are many groups that aren’t as large as they used to be or the young don’t keep contact with the community,” he said. “But to learn the history of our area, you can use the community as a classroom. You can travel to University City and Olivette; you can travel to The Hill and experience so many cultures in just one city. You can get a different view of your city if you just drive a short distance.”

The book highlights these cultures and many others taking a look at how people came to live in St. Louis, where they settled in the area and the various community groups that keep their traditions alive.

Elizabeth Terry, author of Oysters to Angus: Three Generations of the St. Louis Faust Family and Patrick McCarthy, co-author of After the Fall: Srebrenica Survivors in St. Louis, also authored the book.

Copies of the book can be purchased online at Webster University Press or at Emerson Library. 

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