St. Louis Arch’s Golden Anniversary

Today, October 28, 2015, marks the 50th anniversary, that the capstone, which was the last triangular section of the St. Louis Arch, was set in place. The building of the Arch was a monumental feat of engineering. Speeches will be given about the great spirit, engineering and effort that went into the building of the Arch.

The history of the building of the Arch will be retold. The first stainless steel sections of the Arch arrived at the site where the foundation had already been prepared on February 12, 1963, construction began, and the final steel section of the Gateway Arch was placed on October 28, 1965.

Percy Green and Richard Daley on the St. Louis Arch, July 14, 1964

There is a part of that history that is often overlooked or excluded. Civil rights activists at the time regarded the construction of the Arch as a token of racial discrimination.  The Construction Company building the Arch, MacDonald Construction Co. of St. Louis, employed about 1,000 workers. MacDonald Construction did not use any black contractors and none of their employees were black. The writers of history often removed portions they prefer forgotten.

The February 2013 video below , an episode of City Corner, discusses St Louis Civil Rights Activities with Percy Green. His involvement in with the Arch protest is shown at the 17:34 mark.

On July 14, 1964, during the Arch workers' lunchtime, civil rights protesters Percy Green and Richard Daly, both members of Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.), climbed up 125-feet on the north leg of the arch to "expose the fact that federal funds were being used to build a national monument that was racially discriminating against black contractors and skilled black workers." As the pair disregarded demands to get off, protesters on the ground demanded that at least 10% of the skilled jobs belong to African Americans.

Percy Green and the McDonnell Douglass Test

Some of the same exclusionary tactics used during the construction of the St. Louis Arch, unfortunately, still seem very familiar today. During Percy Green's reflection upon those days prior to the Arch protest, he mentioned how bright students were reduced to criminal activity because of the lack of opportunity. That same lack of opportunity results in higher crime rates today.

His actions at the Arch set in motion events that would result in a Landmark Supreme Court decision affecting the entire nation.


Percy Green was a black mechanic and laboratory technician, and was laid off by McDonnell Douglas in 1964 shortly after the Arch protest, during a reduction in force at the company. Percy Green protested that his discharge was racially motivated. He and others, used cars to block roads to McDonnell Douglas factories. On one occasion, someone used a chain to lock the front door of a McDonnell Douglas downtown business office, preventing employees from leaving, though it was not certain whether Green was responsible.

McDonnell Douglas advertised for vacant mechanic positions, for which Green was qualified. Green applied, but was not hired, with McDonnell Douglas citing his participation in blocking traffic and chaining the building.

Green filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which resulted in a unanimous (9-0) Supreme Court's decision in Mr. Green's favor.

The case: McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 US 792 – Supreme Court 1973, created of a framework or ("test") for Title VII cases where there is only relatively indirect evidence as to whether an employment action was discriminatory in nature.

Mcdonnell Douglas test requires an employer to prove with evidence showing that the employment action complained was taken for nondiscriminatory reasons. However, the employee must show the following conditions are satisfied:

1.The plaintiff (employee) must establish a prima facie case of discrimination;

2.The defendant (employer) must produce evidence of a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for its actions. If this occurs, then the presumption of discrimination becomes invalid;

3.The plaintiff (employee) must present facts to show an inference of discrimination.