Kinloch, Missouri, is a historically Black municipality located in north St. Louis County. Kinloch was founded in 1890 and is the first all Black community to be incorporated in Missouri. Just after WWI and during the Great Migration, thousands of Black southerners relocated to Kinloch making it a spirited and prosperous community for much of the 19th and 20th century. It had everything a community needed to thrive, schools, retail stores, grocery stores, streetcar lines, music venues, movie theaters, gardens and an unbreakable sense of family and kinship. In its glory days, Kinloch had more than 10,000 residents but due to years of political corruption, land grabs, and poverty it resembles a nature reserve more than city. Today, there are only 263 residents.
When the schools closed in the late 1970’s, Kinloch’s once vibrant and prosperous community began its rapid decline. In the 1980’s, the City of St. Louis began a noise abatement program for Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The city used its eminent domain and political leverage to buy out mass swaths of land, taking ownership of most of the private homes in Kinloch. Once the city acquired the property it wanted and 75 percent of the population left, the demolition of the community accelerated rapidly. In no time, thousands of homes were demolished, and prominent community staples were leveled. What was once a city that stretched miles, is now reduced to less than a square mile. Kinloch’s residents were promised a prosperous future but were instead given the annihilation of its culture and community.
Although the physical infrastructure is gone, the spirit and strong sense of family in Kinloch has not disappeared. Current and former residents have not abandoned the place they call home. Today, you will find long term residents spending time at Will Carters scrap yard, gathering on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd to eat pork steaks at Robin Stegall’s DA G.O.A.T. GRILL food truck or in the park to listening to music, shooting dice and spending time with their friends and family. Despite having nearly everything taken from them, Kinloch residents maintain and continue to grow as a family and community.