Home » Missouri » Ferguson

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.



Basic Information

Type of Place
Metro Area
St. Louis
Politics c. 1860?
Unions, Organized Labor?

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
Surely Not

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1940 5724 38
1950 11573 25
1960 22149 15
1970 28759 165
1980 24740
1990 22286

Method of Exclusion

  • Police or Other Official Action
  • Realtors
  • Reputation
  • Other

Main Ethnic Group(s)

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


According to John A. Wright, Kinloch: Missouri’s First Black Town (Chicago: Arcadia, 2000), p. 127, Ferguson blocked the main road to Kinloch, the tiny black suburb to its west, with chains, trying to keep out black residents.

Between 1940-60, while Ferguson’s white population grew by almost 400%, its black population was cut by 60%. Meanwhile, the black population of the St. Louis metropolitan area doubled, from just under 150,000 to just under 300,000.

In August, 2014, Ferguson received national attention for what seems to be an example of a “second-generation sundown town problem.” Such problems linger in former sundown towns and suburbs that are obviously no longer all-white on purpose. Ferguson never quite attained sundown town status, but it did use DWB (“Driving While Black”) policing and realtor steering, as well as the above-noted chains, to get as white as it could. In 2014, the police force had just 3 blacks out of 50 officers. Considering that it just makes sense to send black officers to the site of black disturbances and white officers to white disturbances, such a ratio is not competent. Moreover, while a proportion = to the proportion in the population is not required, 3 out of 50 is less than one per shift, so it is unlikely that many of Ferguson’s white officers have had the experience of being partnered with an African American, serving under one, or even simply having the chance to converse about the world with a black officer.

The 2014 incident, the shooting of Michael Brown, black teenager, by a white policeman, triggered days of demonstrations verging on riots, a militarized police response, and a national news storm.