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The conventional explanation adds that African Americans moved to a few places like Ferguson, not the suburbs generally, because prejudiced real estate agents steered black homebuyers away from other white suburbs. And in any event, those other suburbs were able to preserve their almost entirely white, upper-middle-class environments by enacting zoning rules that required only expensive single family homes, the thinking goes. This history, however, has now largely been forgotten.
There was a tiny black section of Ferguson, geographically isolated from the main town, but it was the white Ferguson that Williams had come to admire, although he had been permitted to enter only during daytime.
In August 2014, a Ferguson, Missouri, policeman shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.
Michael Brown’s death and the resulting protests and racial tension brought considerable attention to that town.
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.
Until the mid-1960s, Ferguson was a “sundown town” from which African Americans were banned after dark.