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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. No doubt, private prejudice and suburbanites’ desire for homogenous affluent environments contributed to segregation in St. But these explanations are too partial, and too conveniently excuse public policy from responsibility. A more powerful cause of metropolitan segregation in St. Report of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. 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. 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.
Government policies turned black neighborhoods into overcrowded slums and white families came to associate African Americans with slum characteristics. 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. 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.