Our Icons

Our Pillars

Simmons Elementary

Established in 1873, Elleardsville Colored School #8 was renamed to Simmons School in honor of Reverend William J. Simmons. The Department of Interior credited the school’s Historic significance to the early transitional design by St. Louis renowned architect William B. Ittner.

Charles Sumner High School

Established in 1875, Charles Sumner High School became the 1st public black high school west of the Mississippi. Sumner High School continues to be a historic icon in The Ville.  Notable attendees include Arthur Ashe, Chuck Berry, Grace Bumbry, Dick Gregory, Julius Hunter, Julia Davis, and Margaret Bush Wilson.

Poro College

Established 1917, sold and became a hotel in 1931. In 1937 the site was leased to Lincoln University Law School, to educate black students that were denied admission to the University of Missouri Law School. In 1965 the site was razed to establish the James House.

Lincoln University Law School

In 1937 the former site of Poro College was leased to Lincoln University Law School, to educate black students that were denied admission to the University of Missouri Law School.

Stowe Teachers College

Now Turner Middle School. An HBCU founded in 1857, that was originally an all-white institution named Harris Teachers College. The College merged with the all-black Stowe Teachers College in 1890 after the Brown v. Board of Education and was renamed in honor of the abolitionist and novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Tandy Park and Community Center

Opened 1938, this culturally significant park is centrally located in the heart of The Ville. Named after Captain Charlton Hunt Tandy, a black Civil War veteran, educator and civic leader.  As an educator, Captain Hunt is credited with establishing a high school for blacks in Jefferson City, that later became Lincoln University. Today the park hails the famous Sumner Bulldog, Tuskegee Airman billboard.

Annie Malone Children’s Home

Founded by Sara Newton Cohron in 1888 and named after Annie Malone who gifted the money and land to create the home.  The first location was 1427 North 12th Street. In 1905, the Home was moved to a location on Natural Bridge Ave. 1n 1910 the first May Day Parade was held as a fundraiser for the Home. The processional style May Day parade has grown to be the second- largest black Parade in the country.  The Home moved to its permanent location on 2612 Goode Avenue, in The Ville.

Homer G. Phillips Hospital

Deemed as one of the most prestigious medical institutions in its time, Homer G, Phillips hospital, was established to treat black residents of St. Louis, MO, who were not permitted in other medical facilities.  Named after Attorney Homer G. Phillips, Howard Law School graduated was instrumental in securing the funding to build the hospital.

Antioch Baptist Church

Established in 1884 under the Reverend James E. Cook active in civil rights. Listed in the National Historic Register of Historic Places because of its role in the civil rights movement. The Reverend Dr. William Collins, Jr. was the Senior Pastor of Antioch for more than 40 years and a leader in The Ville community.

St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church

Organized in1884 and located within walking distance of Antioch Baptist Church, Tandy Park, Turner Middle School. James AME along with the senior living facility, The James House continue to serve The Ville community.

Turner Middle School

Erected in 1940, named for Charles Henry Turner, the first black man to receive a Ph.D., and the former site of Stowe Teachers College. Originally Sumner Normal School, a part of Charles Sumner High School, the Middle School was in walking distance of the branch, Turner Open Air School.

John Marshall School

Designed by William B. Ittner, in 1919 Marshall School because the only intermediate school for black children.  Named for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Marshall remained an elementary school until 2004.

Sara Lou Café

Since 1904, considered a staple go to soul food restaurant in the heart of The Ville, Sara Lou Café stood proudly on the corner of Sara Avenue and St. Louis Avenue. Sara Lou is listed on Missouri’s “Places of Peril” and there are active efforts by Northside Community Housing Inc. to restore Sara Lou Café.

Turner Open Air School

Opened in 1925 as one of two public schools in St. Louis City aimed to treat children with special medical needs. Named for entomologist Charles Turner, first black man to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, pushed for the open air, healthful air concept that encouraged time spent outdoors.

Harlem Tap Room

4161 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, historic local tavern in The Ville, graced entertainers such as Albert and B.B. King.

Our Roots

  • Charles Sumner Stone – (born 1924) Tuskegee Airman, 1st Pres of National Assn of Black Journalist, father was Business Manager for Annie Malone’s Poro College, located in The Ville.
  • Annie Turnbo Malone – (born 1869)1st black female self-made millionaire and founder of Poro College. In 1918, Poro’s success allowed Malone to build a four-story, million-dollar factory and beauty school complex in the historic black neighborhood of The Ville, in St. Louis. Malone was also an active philanthropist.  She contributed thousands of dollars to educational programs, universities, to the YMCA, and to nearly every black orphanage in the country.  She also served as board president of the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home from 1919 to 1943.
  • Sarah N. Cohron – founded Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center in 1888. Originally called the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home but was renamed to honor Annie Turnbo Pope Malone who gave a financial gift in 1922 to build a new building located in The Ville.
  • Charles U. Turpin – (born 1870) St. Louis constable, 1st black political official. Charles Turpin was the owner of the Booker T. Washington Theatre at 2248 Market Street, which open in 1913 a block from Union Station. The theatre was among the first theatres in the United States built and operated by and for Blacks. Josephine Baker debuted in the theater in 1919. He was elected St. Louis Constable and also owned Peoples Finance Company.
  • Thomas M. Turpin – (born1871) Thomas Turpin owned the Rosebud Café at 2220-22 Market Street. He was a composer and source of inspiration for a generation of rag-timers in the St. Louis area. Turpin´s “Harlem Rag,” published in 1897 was one of the earliest rags written for the piano.
  • Homer G. Phillips – (born 1878) Civil rights activist and attorney for which Homer G Phillips Hospital was named. Phillips pushed for the hospital to be built for the black community in St. Louis. The hospital was built in 1922 with funds from a bond issues that Phillips spearheaded.
  • D. and Ethel Shelley – Activist racial covenant suit. The Shelley’s purchased a home on Labadie in The Ville. Louis and Ethel Kraemer filed a lawsuit to keep the Shelley’s from moving in.  Lawyer George Vaughn filed a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court.  The court ruled that private restrictive covenants do not violate the 14th amendment, state enforcement of such restrictive covenants in a state court violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
  • William L. Clay, Sr – (born 1931) MO 1st black United States congressman elected to the House of Representatives, inducted into Charles Sumner High, located in The Ville, hall of fame.
  • Angela Glover Blackwell – Charles Sumner High graduate class of 1962, founder and chief executive officer of Policy Link, an organization dedicated to ending racial disparities and ensuring social equality.
  • Arthur R. Ashe – (born 1943)1st black player selected to the United States Davis Cup team and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. Sumner High School graduate class of 1961 located in The Ville.
  • Billy Davis Jr. – (born 1938) Black musician and member of the 5th Dimension, lived at 3919 West Belle Place and attended Cole School on Enright Ave, located in The Ville.
  • Charles H. Turner – (born 1867) a zoologist and scholar, was the first person to discover that insects can hear and alter behavior based on previous experience. High school teacher at Charles Sumner High School from 1908-1922.
  • Captain Charlton Hunt Tandy – (born 1836) 1st Louisan to aid the Exodusters, Black migrants who were leaving the post-Reconstruction South for homes in Kansas. Tandy organized the Colored Refugee Relief Board. Tandy Community Center located in The Ville is name in honor of Captain Tandy. Appointed by President Grant and the first black employee at the St. Louis Custom House.
  • Chauncey Cooper – (born 1906) Charles Sumner High graduate and founder and first president of the National Pharmaceutical Association.  He was the first black dean of the College of Pharmacy.
  • Charles “Chuck” Edward Anderson Berry – (born 1926) Grew up in a home presently located at 3137 Whittier in The Ville, black entertainer, “Father of Rock and Roll”. First public performance held at Charles Sumner High school.
  • Richard Claxton “Dick” Gregory – (born 1932) One of the most successful black comedians, civil rights activist, social critic, writer, conspiracy theorist, entrepreneur, and occasional actor. Graduate of Charles Sumner High class of 1951.
  • Edward Bouchet – (born 1852) first black to earn a D. from Yale, taught at Charles Sumner High School from 1902-1905. Gifted many young minds with an introduction to physics, honored by APS with the naming of the Edward A. Bouchet Award, granted to distinguished minority physicist.
  • Ethyl H. Lyle – (born 1950) Ethel Hedgeman Lyle Academy, charter school named for the founder of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (ΑΚΑ) at Howard University in 1908. It was the first sorority founded by a black college female student. Graduate of Charles Sumner High school class of 1904.
  • Georgette Harvey – (born 1882) Famed singer and actress, attended Charles Sumner High school. She is perhaps most famous for creating the role of Maria in the original Broadway production of Porgy (1927) and the 1935 Broadway production of George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess.
  • George Vaughn – (born 1885) Black lawyer and civic leader in St. Louis, Missouri best known for representing J.D. Shelley and Herman Willer in the landmark civil rights case Shelley v. Kraemer(1948) surrounding racial covenants for the home located at 4600 Labadie Avenue, in The Ville.
  • Margaret Bush Wilson– (born 1919) She became the second woman to attend the law school at Lincoln University and the second black woman to become a practicing attorney in the state of Missouri and in 1946 established a law firm with Robert Wilson, whom she married in 1944.  Her first influential role came in 1948 with the nationally prominent Shelley v. Kraemer case in 1948.  Wilson’s father aided the Shelley’s, a black family, in purchasing a home in 1946 from which they were later removed because of racially restrictive covenants.  Wilson chaired the black Real Estate Brokers Association in St. Louis as a real estate lawyer. Graduated Charles Sumner High class of 1935.
  • Charles Edward Anderson – (born 1919) meteorologist, Air Force officer, and weather officer, valedictorian Charles Sumner High class of 1937. While serving in the U.S. Army Air Force, Anderson was stationed in Tuskegee, Alabama as a weather officer with the 332nd Fighter Group otherwise known as the Tuskegee Airmen. During his career he had been nationally acknowledged as a leading expert on severe storms and tornadoes.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe – (born 1811) Abolitionist and novelist famous for writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin that pushed for abolitionist activities. Harris-Stowe University is a HBCU in St. Louis, Missouri. Notable alumni include the Honorable Maxine Waters, US House of Representatives (D-Calif.); Julius Hunter, former St. Louis news reporter; and the Honorable Charles Shaw, a federal judge. Stowe Teachers College, which became Turner Middle School in The Ville.
  • Grace Bumbry– (born 1937) Grace Melzia Bumbry, an American opera singer, is considered one of the leading mezzo-sopranos of her generation, as well as a major soprano for many years. She was a member of a pioneering generation of singers who followed Marian Anderson in the world of classical music and paved the way for future black opera and classical singers. Graduate of Charles Sumner High School class of 1954, home was located on 1703 Annie Malone Drive in The Ville.
  • Reverend William J. Simmons – (born 1849) was an ex-slave who became Simmons College of Kentucky’s 2nd president (1880–1890) and for whom the school eventually was named. Simmons greatly developed Howard University’s teacher training programs when he took over the school. In addition, he was a writer, journalist, and educator. In 1886 he became president of the American National Baptist Convention, one of the organizations that would merge to form the National Baptist Convention, USA. He was elected president of the Colored Press Association for his work as editor of the American Baptist, a newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1891, City Colored School #8 was renamed to Simmons School in honor of Reverend Simmons, located in The Ville. Author of the book, “Men of Mark”.
  • Reverend James E. Cook – (born 1900) The St. Louis Board of Alderman adopted Resolution #67 on May 14, 2010 to honor the Pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, located in The Ville and director of the Pine Street YMCA. Reverend Cook was instrumental in leading the efforts to construct Homer G. Phillips Hospital.
  • Grant Green – (born 1935) Guitar player, jazz musician and considered the “Father of Acid Jazz”. Founded the first St. Louis chapter of the Nation of Islam. Revered as the Holy Barbarian of music after performing at the Holy Barbarian nightclub, which was one of the first racially integrated clubs in Gas Light Square.
  • Helen Nash – (born 1921) Helen Elizabeth Nash was the first Black physician on staff at St. Louis Children’s Hospital after completing her pediatric residency and internship at Homer G. Phillips in The Ville.
  • Henry Givens – (born 1933) Graduate Charles Sumner High class of 1948. President of Harris-Stowe State University for more than 32 years, who grew up just a few blocks from the original HSSU.
  • Herman Dreer – (born 1927) The Dreer House is located at 4335 Cote Brilliante Ave in The Ville in honor of the years he spent as an educator and Assistant Principal for 14 years at Charles Sumner High.
  • John Hicks – (born 1941) The first black reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. He later became a US Diplomat and worked in several foreign countries.
  • Jordan Chambers – (born 1895) Jordan Chambers career began as the first black member of the Democratic Central Committee as Committeeman for the 19th Ward with a basic philosophy of Black Power. Often called the “Negro Mayor of St. Louis”. Attended Charles Sumner High School and owned People’s Mutual Burial League and Undertaking Company and the Riviera Night Club.
  • Julia Davis – (born 1891) Once taught Chuck Berry in the 7th and 8th grade at Simmons Elementary School. As a longtime resident of The Ville, Davis graduated from Dumas Elementary, Sumner High, Normal Schools, and Stowe Teacher College. Davis began raising awareness of the contributions of blacks with a series of annual exhibits at the St. Louis Public Library. In 1974, the St. Louis Public library dedicated a Branch in her honor. Charles Sumner High Graduate class of 1909.
  • Lloyd Gaines – (born 1911) Lloyd Lionel Gaines lived on West Belle Place in The Ville Neighborhood and attended Vashon High School. He later attended Stowe Teachers College and Lincoln University. Gaines was the first black to apply to the University of Missouri School of Law. However, under Missouri’ separate but equal rule, black and white students were not allowed to attend school together. Eventually, the Supreme court ruled in favor of Gaines, but he did not attend after being described as “last seen” in 1939.
  • Moddie Daniel Taylor -(born 1912) A chemist by training, was a member of the small, elite group of Black scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, the code name for the top-secret effort to create an atomic bomb during World War II. Graduate Charles Sumner High School class of 1931.
  • Robert McFerrin – (born 1921)1st black to win the Metropolitan Opera House’s Auditions of the Air radio contest and graduate of Charles Sumner High School, class of 1940. Father of Grammy winner Bobby McFerrin.
  • David Surmier Cunningham, Jr. – (born 1935) Civil rights activist and Charles Sumner High school graduate, class of 1952.
  • Tina Turner – (born 1939) Sumner Class of 58. Anna Mae Bullock, known by her stage name Tina Turner, is a singer, dancer, actress, and author, whose career has spanned more than half a century, earning her widespread recognition and numerous awards. 
  • Captain Wendell Oliver Pruitt – (born 1920) While a student at Lincoln, Pruitt obtained his private pilot license from Jefferson City Airport. He graduated from Lincoln in 1941 and was accepted into the U.S. Army Air Corps Flying School at Tuskegee, Alabama. He teamed up with Lt. Col. Lee A. Archer Jr., a member of the Tuskegee Airmen who piloted aircraft during WWII, to form the “Gruesome Twosome” in the 332nd Fighter Group. Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project after him and in 1984, the Pruitt Military Academy was established. Charles Sumner High school class of 1937.
  • Lester Bowie – (born 1941) Famed jazz trumpeter and Charles Sumner High graduate who was the co-founder of the Black Artist Group (BAG).
  • Baikida Carroll – (born 1947) Trumpeter and composer attended both Vashon and Soldan High School, he frequented The Ville neighborhood as one of the original members of the Black Artist Group (BAG).
  • Alvin Cash – (born 1939) Alvin Cash, born Alvin Welch attended Charles Sumner High school with classmates Tina Turner (Annie Mae Bullocks), Billy Davis, Luther Ingram, alongside his 8 brothers and sisters. Member of the bands called the Nightlighters, the Crawlers, and the Registers.
  • Nate Colbert – (born 1946) Professional baseball player, Charles Sumner High school graduate, class of 1964. Drafted in 1964 by the Florida Cardinals, spent 6 years with the San Diego Padres, and retired in 1976 from the Oakland Athletics.
  • Juan Farrow – (born 1958) Accomplished professional tennis player, graduate of Charles Sumner High who studied under the famous coach, Richard Hudlin, and protégé of Arthur Ashe and played in the Australian Open.
  • Robert Guillaume – (born 1927) Actor known for portraying the character Benson DuBois on the ABC sitcoms Soap and Benson.  Guillaume attached Charles Sumner High School in The Ville.
  • Victoria Clay Haley – (born 1877) Graduate Charles Sumner High School, class of 1895, activist that was instrumental in pushing for women’s rights and leader of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club.
  • Julius Hunter – Charles Sumner High school class of 1961, went on to become the first black television anchorman on prime-time television in St. Louis. He has also distinguished himself as an author, educator, musician, philanthropist, genealogist, lecturer and chef.
  • Ivan C. James, Jr. – (born 1917) Graduate of Charles Sumner High who went on to become one of the first licensed engineers in Missouri and the first black engineer hired by Emerson Electric.  The James family once lived on West Belle in The Ville.
  • Oliver Lake – (born 1940) Saxophonist member of the Black Artist Group (BAG)who grew up in The Ville neighborhood and attended Charles Sumner High School.   Lake later founded the World Saxophone Quartet with members Julius Hemphill and Hamiet Bluiett under the direction of Ed Jordan, Southern University. Lake is also a published poet.
  • Eugene W. Moore – (born 1945) Professional basketball player and Sumner High School graduate class of 1968, drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks, until 1975.
  • Roscoe Robinson Jr -(born 1928), first black to reach rank of four-star general in US Army, graduated Charles Sumner High and served as president for the class of 1946. Four-star general Colin Powel described Robinson as one of the pioneers for racial change in the army.
  • Harry Rogers – (born 1950) graduate of Charles Sumner High, Rogers played for the Spirit of St. Louis and the Milwaukee Bucks. He played alongside Marshall Rogers and David Brent on the famous 1969 Sumner bulldogs teams that beat Webster Groves at the Kiel.
  • Marshall Rogers – (born 1953) Charles Sumner High School graduate and NCAA basketball scoring champion that led the 1969 Sumner bulldogs to become state champions against Webster Groves.  Rogers was a first-round pick and spent a season with the Golden State Warriors in 1976.
  • Darnay Scott – (born 1972) former NFL player for the Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Dallas Cowboys who attended Charles Sumner High school though his sophomore year.
  • Olly Wilson – (born 1937) The professor and composer began playing piano at the age seven at the request of his father.  He graduated from Charles Sumner High in 1955 and was revered as “one of the preeminent Black composers in the twentieth century.
  • Kenneth B. Billups (born 1918) Graduate of Charles Sumner High and coined as “one of the most important social anchors of the Ville”.  Dr. Kenneth Brown Billups Sr. interchangeably served the community as an educator, a minister of music, and choir director.

*We do our best to provide the most up to date and accurate information. If you see anything that needs corrections, please contact us using the contact form.

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