Despite St. Louis’s mid-twentieth-century reputation as a conservative and sleepy midwestern metropolis, the city and its surrounding region have long played host to dynamic forms of social-movement organizing. This was especially the case during the 1960s and 1970s, when a new generation of local activists lent their energies to the ongoing struggles for Black freedom, lesbian and gay liberation, feminist social transformations, environmental protection, an end to the Vietnam War, and more. This volume, the first of its kind, offers fifteen scholarly contributions that together bring into focus the exceptional range of progressive activist projects that took shape in a single midwestern city during these tumultuous decades.
In contrast to scholarship that seeks to interpret the era’s social-movement initiatives in a primarily national context, the works presented in this expansive collection emphasize the importance of locality, neighborhood, community institutions, and rooted social networks. Documenting wrenching forces of metropolitan change as well as grassroots resilience, Left in the Midwest shows us how place powerfully shaped agendas, worldviews, and opportunities for the disparate groups that dedicated themselves to progressive visions for their city. By revising our sense of the region’s past, this volume also expands our sense of the possibilities that the future may hold for activist movements seeking change in St. Louis and beyond.