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In 1968, Larman Williams was one of the first African Americans to buy a home in the white suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. “Laclede: An Experiment in Ethnic Harmony.” The Seattle Times, November 9.
It wasn’t easy – when he first went to see the house, the real estate agent wouldn’t show it to him. Williams belonged to a church with a white pastor, who contacted the agent on Williams’s behalf, only to be told that neighbors objected to sales to Negroes. Louis, Reach Agreement to Increase Investment in Low-Income and Minority Communities.” Press release, U. Department of Housing and Urban Development, December.
Within that area, whites are now a solid majority in some neighborhoods for the first time in decades.4 The following pages tell the story of how St. Louis over the last century was duplicated in almost every metropolis nationwide.
Louis became such a segregated metropolis, where racial boundaries continually change but communities’ racial homogeneity persists. Louis and other metropolitan areas maintain segregation patterns established by public policy a century ago. Yet this story of racial isolation and disadvantage, enforced by federal, state, and local policies, many of which are no longer practiced, is central to an appreciation of what occurred in Ferguson in August 2014 when African American protests turned violent after police shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old.
But it had some multifamily buildings that attracted renters from St. By 1980, Ferguson was 14 percent black; by 1990, 25 percent; by 2000, 52 percent; and by 2010, 67 percent. Louis were similarly experiencing an increasing share of black residents during this period.
Meanwhile, suburbs beyond the first ring to the south and west of St.
When we blame private prejudice, suburban snobbishness, and black poverty for contemporary segregation, we not only whitewash our own history but avoid considering whether new policies might instead promote an integrated community. United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division, Civil Action 72-100C (4), December 13. White homeowners then fled when African Americans moved nearby, fearing their new neighbors would bring slum conditions with them. That government, not mere private prejudice, was responsible for segregating greater St. A federal appeals court declared 40 years ago that “segregated housing in the St. in large measure the result of deliberate racial discrimination in the housing market by the real estate industry and by agencies of the federal, state, and local governments.” Similar observations accurately describe every other large metropolitan area. Until the mid-1960s, Ferguson was a “sundown town” from which African Americans were banned after dark. Ferguson had blocked off the main road from Kinloch with a chain and construction materials but kept a second road open during the day so housekeepers and nannies could get from Kinloch to jobs in Ferguson.2 Kinloch and the middle-class white neighborhoods that also adjoin Ferguson were once indistinguishably part of unincorporated St.
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Ferguson adjoined the very poor, all-black suburb of Kinloch where Williams had once lived (California Congresswoman Maxine Waters and the comedian and activist Dick Gregory grew up there).