Subscribe for 99¢

Joe Holleman is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

A small house that played a big role in civil rights spent Friday in the spotlight.

The "Shelley House" at 4600 Labadie Avenue in St. Louis was dedicated by the National Park Service as Missouri’s first official site on the new U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

Mining Missouri's black history

When J.D. Shelley and Ethel Shelley attempted to buy this house at 4600 Labadie Avenue in St. Louis in 1948, they were told it could not be sold to blacks. Their fight went to the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in a ruling that struck down racial covenants in housing. Photo by Tom Uhlenbrock of the Post-Dispach

U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-University City, and Aurelia Skipwith, deputy assistant Secretary of Interior, headlined the event.

The new civil rights trail, created by legislation written by Clay, aims to preserve significant places that had critical roles in the civil rights movement in the United States.

The Shelley House, located in the Greater Ville neighborhood, was at the center of the U.S. Supreme Court decision (Shelley vs. Kramer) which struck down restrictive racial covenants in housing in 1948.

The nationally significant decision pitted J.D. and Ethel Shelley, a black couple who bought the house, against Louis and Fern Kraemer, white neighbors who tried to keep them out.

Other notables in attendance were St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson; Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis NAACP; Bob Bax, president of the St. Louis Realtors Association; and members of the Shelley family.

Breaking News e-newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.