The state of Missouri and the Missouri River are both named after the Missouria Tribe, which once lived in the region and controlled traffic and trade along the Missouri River and its tributaries, but were forcibly moved to Oklahoma in 1881. Before the Indian Removal Act of 1830, there were nine tribes in Missouri: Chickasaw, Delaware, Illini, Kanza, Ioway, Otoe-Missouria, Osage, Quapaw, Sac & Fox, and Shawnee. Currently, the St. Louis region is home to about 3,000 American Indians from many different tribes.
Today, St. Louis is a city of around 315,000 residents. Population peaked in the 1950s at around 850,000 residents, and in years since the city has experienced around 63% population loss and continues to lose population today. The metropolitan region has around 3 million residents, many of whom have moved from the city to the larger county. The St. Louis region is marked by deep residential segregation that is best understood through an intertwined racial and economic lens. Historically the city has been divided
north-south, with North city being primarily Black and South city being primarily white. Delmar Ave is the understood dividing line, resulting in the concept of the “Delmar Divide.” However, despite perception, the absolute nature of this dynamic has changed somewhat in recent years as Black people from North city have moved in larger numbers to South city, which now has more Black residents than North city does total.
Historically, white St. Louis city residents moved out to the county as a part of white flight and the subsidized movement of white families into the suburbs post-WWII. But today parts of North County – where municipalities like Ferguson and Jennings are located – are more predominantly Black. This segregated reality has effectively excluded Black residents of the region from all manner of opportunity and has produced extraordinarily inequitable economic, educational, and health outcomes along lines of race.