Webster Groves senior CJ Langon

Webster Groves senior CJ Langon, sporting a Douglass High School replica jersey, drives to the basket against Eureka on Douglass Night, Friday, Feb. 10, 2023, in Roberts Gym. Both the girls and boys teams celebrated historic Douglass during respective games. 

The Alliance for Interracial Dignity will host “Pillars of Community: A Celebration of Local Black History” at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Eden Seminary Commons, 475 E. Lockwood Ave.

The event will begin with an opportunity to visit several Webster historical sites in a small scavenger hunt. Local historians Kita Quinn and Ed Johnson will share stories of two pillars of the Webster community.

Profiled will be Walter Rusan, founder of the North Webster YMCA in the 1940s, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which still holds services in the same YMCA building.

Attendees will also learn how Rusan co-founded the Webster Groves Interracial Group with partners from Eden Seminary.

Black families settled in North Webster after the civil War and created a community that remains in existence.

North Webster had churches, grocery stores, and doctors. It was also home to Douglass High School, the only accredited high school for Black students in St. Louis County during segregation.

African American students who were not from Webster commuted to Douglass, which was noted for its academic excellence. 

Among its acclaimed alumnus are Walter Ambrose (class of 1937), and aide to U.S. Army General George Patton, and first Black member of the Webster School Board; John Horner, an illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post; Alphonse Smith, an All-Star player with the Cleveland Indians; and Joe Thomas, trumpeter for the Duke Ellington Band.

The Webster Statesmen girls’ and boys’ varsity basketball teams wore purple Douglass High School basketball jerseys on February 10, in honor of the former school in north Webster that closed in 1956.

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