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First published online December 19, 2013

The St. Louis Rent Strike of 1969: Transforming Black Activism and American Low-Income Housing


In 1969, public housing tenants launched a rent strike that shaped federal legislation and helped make housing a central concern of the Black Freedom Struggle. In addition to providing a detailed narrative of the rent strike, this article follows the lives of the rent strike’s three primary leaders—Ivory Perry, the Rev. Buck Jones, and Jean King. Following the rent strike, Ivory Perry worked to curb lead poisoning while Buck Jones sought to reform welfare in Missouri. Later, Jones labored to improve living conditions in East St. Louis, Illinois. Jean King worked with private developers following the rent strike, helping remake the architecture and management of low-income housing. By focusing on how these individuals aided the rent strike, and by following their subsequent life careers, this article demonstrates that the St. Louis rent strike influenced developments central to American low-income housing and black activism in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

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Michael Karp is a PhD candidate at Saint Louis University, specializing in the American West with an emphasis in environmental history.

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Article first published online: December 19, 2013
Issue published: July 2014


  1. rent strike
  2. Black Power
  3. low-income housing
  4. welfare
  5. Black Freedom Struggle

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© 2013 SAGE Publications.
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Published online: December 19, 2013
Issue published: July 2014



Michael Karp
Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO, USA


Michael Karp, 43480 Corte Logrono, Temecula, CA 92592, USA. Email: [email protected]

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This article was published in Journal of Urban History.


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