Louis have remained almost all white, while the white population share of the city of St.
Louis itself has been stable and has even started to grow. Louis’s downtown area and neighborhoods west of it to the city border went from 36 percent white in 2000 to 44 percent white in 2010.
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.
This history, however, has now largely been forgotten.
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.
Larman Williams chose Ferguson because he was vaguely familiar with the town. 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. 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.
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.