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Home > Programs > St. Louis History in Black and White


St. Louis History in Black and White: From Dred Scott to Barack Obama



The Pruitt-Igoe public housing project in St. Louis was built in 1954 and hailed as the prototype of what public housing should be. The nine high rise apartment buildings were to be used to house both black and white St. Louisans who were displaced by urban renewal.  However, within a few years, Pruitt-Igoe was proving to be a major failure.  A perfect storm of poor design, poor management, bad timing, overcrowding and crime led to its demise.  Within two decades it was leveled, it’s rubble testimony to the utter failure of the social experiment.  Early in 2011 a documentary film was released which traced Pruitt-Igoe’s history.  Titled The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, the film shows what happened and why, while reminding viewers that Pruitt-Igoe was home to thousands of (by 1972 primarily African American residents) who loved living there, who still carry found memories of their childhood there, but who concede that while its demise was probably warranted, represents a sad chapter for black St. Louisans and the city itself. The film’s director, Chad Freidrichs, journalist Sylvester Brown--a former Pruitt-Igoe resident--and Jody Sowell, Public Historian at the Missouri History Museum. This segment also includes clips from the film.

Pruitt-Igoe buildingsListen to the episode:



Chad Freidrichs, director of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

Journalist Sylvester Brown, a former Pruitt-Igoe resident

Jody Sowell, Public Historian at the Missouri History Museum



Additional information about this episode:

Pruitt-Igoe images

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth movie trailer

Demolition video

Wikipedia entry

Harvard Analysis: Pruitt-Igoe Failure

UMSL article: Pruitt-Igoe: End of Modernity



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