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Joyce Best Papers

Identifier: A3033

Scope and Contents

The papers are comprised of materials relating to the Greater St. Louis Committee for Freedom of Residence and programs and certificates relating to the posthumous awarding of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Spirit Award to Margaret “Maggie” Dagen by the University City Board of Education. The papers are arranged alphabetically by topic and date from 1961 to 2006 with date gaps from 1967 to 1995 and from 1998 to 2005. Items documenting the Greater St. Louis Committee for Freedom of Residence include memos and correspondence, brochures, meeting announcements and synopses, newsletters, and newspaper clippings. The earliest item in the collection, presumably used by the Committee for Freedom of Residence (the Committee) and dated approximately 1961, is a street map entitled “Areas of Non-White Occupancy,” which shows the areas of the city occupied by non-whites in 1940, 1950, and 1960. The first newsletter also has a map, “Negro Family Dispersion in the St. Louis County Areas during the Last Three Years” (f.2), which is also used in the brochure “A New Era in Housing” (f.1). The Committee’s objectives are clear on the “Freedom of Residence Pledge” card dated circa 1962. In a letter to the Anti-Defamation League dated June 18, 1961, chairman Rev. William G. Lorenz offered a member of the Committee’s Speakers Bureau to present its ideal goal of “placing…one negro family in every elementary school district in the St. Louis metropolitan area.” In November 1962, the Committee sponsored a panel discussion on the use of straw parties, which refers to white individuals who purchased real estate and then transferred the titles to non-white individuals. It did not have a policy on utilizing straw parties to meet its integration goal, and it hosted a public meeting with four speakers on both sides of the issue (f.1). The Committee received press coverage for the event, which generated discussion about integration, the policies of local real estate boards, and the use of straw parties (f.3). The Committee worked with other organizations. For example, the Committee on Human Rights of the Missouri Association of Social Welfare had a subcommittee on housing. On March 29, 1962, the subcommittee hosted the Greater St. Louis Conference on Discrimination in Housing at Pilgrim Congregational Church during which it hoped to foster alliances to achieve fair housing goals. It then sent the minutes to interested groups. The Committee also worked with the Human Relations Commission of University City (f.1). Ruth Porter (1915-1967) was a co-founder of the Committee for Freedom of Residence and served as the first executive secretary until her death. In 1997, some of the founding members of the Committee and the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council held an event to celebrate Porter’s work in fair housing. There is a brochure and program for the event. In 1996, the Northside Preservation Commission announced the Maple Acres Development home models. The development is located on about 14 acres between Interstates 64 and 70 (Cabanne Ave. on the south, Belt Ave. on the east, and Maple Ave. on the north) in St. Louis’ West End Neighborhood. The development’s publicity material provides floor plans, which reveal one model named “The Porter” for Ruth Porter. It also includes a one-page biography of Porter and her civic accomplishments (f.3). Margaret “Maggie” Dagen (1919-2002) was a social activist and a co-founder of St. Louis CORE. In January 2006, at the 20th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration sponsored by the University City Board of Education, Dagan received the Spirit Award posthumously. In addition, U.S. Congressman Russ Carnahan issued a proclamation honoring Dagen as a recipient of the Spirit Award. These certificates are present, along with the celebration’s program and commemorative booklet containing contributions to King’s memory by students in University City schools.


  • 1961-2006
  • Majority of material found within 1962-1966


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, quote from, or reproduce material in this collection, please contact the Archives Reference Desk at Copyright restrictions may apply. The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming to the laws of copyright.

Biographical Sketch

Joyce Best was the third of four children born in Lincoln, Nebraska, on December 14, 1928, to Floyd Palmer Root and Jessie Ruth Westrope Root. She graduated from Belden High School (Nebraska) in 1946 and from Nebraska State College (Wayne, Nebraska) in 1950. Joyce taught at Albion High School (Albion, Nebraska) for one year before she came to St. Louis through a YWCA summer service program at Caroline Mission in 1951. She decided to remain in St. Louis and initially worked for the Missouri Department of Welfare, where she met Stephen R. Best (1926-2014). Joyce and Stephen married and had two children. Joyce soon returned to education and worked as a teacher in the St. Louis Public Schools and then as an elementary school librarian in the University City Public Schools from 1967 to 1991. In 2019, the Ethical Society of St. Louis presented its Ethics in Action award to Joyce. The Bests were both social activists. They were active members of St. Louis CORE from the time they met in 1951, going to meetings and participating in demonstrations. The couple served as straw parties in a real estate transaction to procure a home for an African American family in 1955. In 1961, Joyce Best was among the first volunteers on the executive board of the Greater St. Louis Committee for Freedom of Residence, serving on the membership committee. She worked with the Committee for several years to end discrimination in housing. The Committee for Freedom of Residence was founded in March 1961 as a means to integrate neighborhoods in the St. Louis area. It operated as a private non-profit for fair and equal housing until approximately 1982. In 1965, the Committee assisted the Jones family when a St. Louis County developer refused to sell them a home because Mr. Jones was African American. The Jones’ case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, Jones v. Mayer Co. (1968), which declared that all discrimination in the sale or renting of property is barred by federal law.


0.17 Cubic Feet ( (5 folders; 1 oversize folder))

Language of Materials



The files are arranged alphabetically.

Physical and Technical Requirements

There are no physical or technical restrictions.

Donor Information

The papers were donated by Joyce Best in 2007 and 2011 (accession number 2007-043, 2011-087).

Related Materials

For more information on the Greater St. Louis Committee for Freedom of Residence see: 1. Race Relations Collection, Missouri Historical Society Archives (A1267) 2. Greater St. Louis Committee for Freedom of Residence Records, State Historical Society of Missouri (S0509) For more information about the Bests, please see the following MHS Archives collections: 1. Unknown Soldiers/Unsung Heroes: Youth Activism in the St. Louis Civil Rights Movement Oral History Project Transcripts (A3175) 2. Billie Ames Teneau CORE Papers (A3165) 3. Gateway Skeptics Records, 1988-2004 (A3100)

Processing Information

Processed with funding from The Stuart Foundation, Inc. by Kristina Perez, 2021.


Joyce Best Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Missouri Historical Society Library and Research Center Repository

225 S. Skinker Blvd.
St. Louis MO 63105 United States