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Posted on: February 8, 2024

February is Black History Month

Irene Thomas

At the February 6 City Council meeting, the Mayor and City Council signed a proclamation declaring that February is Black History Month in the City of Webster Groves and honored an important resident of the City. 

WHEREAS, the observance of Black History Month calls our attention to the past struggles of African Americans and to the cultural, economic, spiritual, and political contributions and achievements of African Americans in Webster Groves and in the nation, and acknowledges there is a continued need to address racism and strengthen the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our lives. Webster Groves is home to the North Webster neighborhood, one of the oldest African American communities in the St. Louis region with rich historical significance for the educational opportunities it provided, the stability of its housing stock, and the many successful African Americans that called North Webster home; and

WHEREAS, the City honors the many African Americans who have played an important role in improving the quality of life in our City, including (Janet) Irene Thomas who we recognize as an extraordinary citizen in her life accomplishments, with her perseverance in seeking higher education, and as a community activist. Irene’s parents knew that education was important, and they moved the family to Webster Groves, where they raised their family on N. Elm Avenue. Irene and her siblings attended Douglass High School, and all nine of them were able to pursue college educations; and

WHEREAS, Irene is recognized as the first African American Woman to graduate from Webster College (now Webster University) on June 4, 1950. She received a BS in Music from the college, and received prestigious awards, such as the Helen Liston Award, and was an accomplished vocalist and pianist, and could perform arias in French, Spanish, and Italian; and 

WHEREAS, Irene faced racism in her education, when people refused to be seated in an auditorium with her and her family, or she was expected to use a handkerchief when using a common instrument in the classroom.  However, Irene was courageous and was not deterred by the many obstacles she encountered to complete her higher education, and likewise in her personal life, she would demand access to public places, like the Ozark Movie Theater; and

WHEREAS, the City of Webster Groves is proud to honor the history of African Americans, like Irene Thomas, and recognize that we must continue to work to treat all persons with fairness, dignity, and respect to create a world that is just and peaceful, with opportunity for all.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, LAURA ARNOLD, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF WEBSTER GROVES, ON BEHALF OF THE ENTIRE CITY COUNCIL, HEREBY PROCLAIM FEBRUARY 2024 AS BLACK HISTORY MONTH IN WEBSTER GROVES ON THIS 6TH DAY OF FEBRUARY 2024.                                

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