Saint Louis 20th Century Life and Death Brigade – University News

The lure of secrecy is seductive. Being able to share muffled words or hand signals defines secret societies. From “The Godfather” to Rory Gilmore’s Life and Death Squad, secret societies appeal because they allow an individual to be seen as part of the upper class and to be accepted into it. this. These societies are made up of individuals who share an agenda and want to achieve an end goal of preserving or changing some aspect of their society.

Secret societies began as religious and political organizations usually made up of the respective aristocracy. Secret societies aimed to preserve or change some aspect of their society. Some of the earliest secret societies included the Pythagorean Brotherhood and the Eleusian Guardians. Later secret societies included the Inquisition, the Sons of Liberty, and the Decembrists. Although secret societies have had different goals over time, members of these societies share an agenda and purpose that manifests in the creation of generational events and practices.

In America, secret societies were formed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for educational and charitable purposes, primarily to help assimilate immigrants. An example of a contemporary secret society is the Order of the Veiled Prophet of Saint Louis. The company was formed following the Great Railway Strike of 1877 when railway workers across the country demonstrated in solidarity against poor working conditions and inadequate wages. The strike drew attention to the socio-economic variance among the predominantly white upper class. The strike was settled with three thousand upper class police and militiamen. When the strike was dissolved, the demands of the demonstration were met by banning child labor and establishing eight-hour working days.

After the strike, Saint Louis recognized that Chicago was invading the transportation and manufacturing field they had previously commanded. So in 1878, former Confederate colonel and grain farmer Charles Slayback called a meeting with city business and citizen representatives to create a secret society that publicly bolstered the stature of St. Louis and the socio-economic relations of the city. 19th century of the proletariat and the bourgeois with the working class of Saint Louis. Thus, the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan was created. As the society formed, it aimed to stifle populist public demands for socio-economic equality between classes while reinforcing the idea that to be American was to be a member of the society that promoted the values ​​of the organization.

The secret society’s board of directors would choose an individual to play the role of the Veiled Prophet. The Prophet attended a ball where he would dance a royal quadrille with a chosen daughter of a local aristocrat, who would be recognized as the queen of love and beauty. After their dance, he offered the queen a valuable object. A parade and fair would follow the ball to publicize the principles of society’s generational privilege over the working class in the face of market capitulation. The parade depicted the history of the world, from Neanderthals to industrialism, from the perspective of white aristocrats promoting their elitist beliefs. Unions have created counter parades to mock the society of the veiled prophet. Although the society’s association with race relations is not tangibly evident, it was not until 1979 that black people were allowed to join.

In 1972, the then-veiled prophet was unmasked by a female member of the guerrilla group Action Committee to Improve Opportunities for Negroes (ACTION) to protest the company’s commitments to publicly awarded event locations. ACTION was founded by Percy Green, a civil rights activist who resisted the beliefs of the Prophet. The unmasking was an attempt to dispel society from the city’s public sphere to resist the principles of class separation in the social, political, and economic spheres.

In 1992, the title of the society’s annual fair was changed from the Fair of the Veiled Prophet to the Saint Louis Fair in an attempt to disassociate the society from Saint Louis. But even after the title change, the ball and fair still served as an original example of reinforcing class separation. The society raises questions about the history of black people in St. Louis who had to deal with the influence of the white upper class on the economy, politics and culture of St. Louis in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Even as the Veiled Prophet sought to separate classes, including its white and black members, the ACTION group and unified working-class and middle-class black workers achieved their goals of reaffirming black institutions, electing favorite civil servants, upholding labor rights and prioritizing quality of life.

Most often, secret societies are formed to promote elitism or dogmatism, immoral or illegal acts, or generally negatively stigmatize their society. Public advocacy groups like ACTION tell us that to be part of a group, you need to have values, beliefs and goals that reflect your character rather than your race, gender, religion, etc Being selected creates an environment of honor among those included and influences those not included to act, believe, or like the same. Although social groups are not secret, they still share similar agendas, goals, and values. There may even be a potential secret handshake. If secret societies persist, they should be formed for a benign and worthwhile purpose. It may not be a dishonorable institution if there was a secret society that granted members who were leaders and advocates of service or equality and had the purpose of promoting values ​​of stewardship or kindness. It only seems that such societies do not exist, and if they do exist, there are few of them.

About Norma Wade

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