We all know that Ferguson, MO has double the number of black citizens than white, and that this is due to a deep rooted history of slavery in the south. St.Louis tourism tries to exploit this history, and only the happy endings like the wealthy African-Americans that were able to buy their own land or a black musician creating a specific genre of music, to of course get people to want to come to St. Louis (1). What St.Louis, especially the government, has a hard time admitting is that the true black history within St.Louis is not something to brag about, rather it is something they should be ashamed about.
Now of course, most of the history that is most shameful, like slavery, was well before our time, and you cannot blame the current people in office for their wrongdoings. What they can be blamed for is to this day is taking advantage of the poorer areas of town, which are mainly areas of color, specifically black. The main example of this was pointed out by Jeffery Smith’s article “You can’t understand Ferguson without first understanding these three things: reflections from a former state senator from St.Louis (2).” In this article he goes into the history of the oldest, and first, black town in MO, Kinloch. Today, Kinloch has about 400-500 residents according to the Chief of the Kinloch Fire Protection District, Darran Kelly, and is one of, if not the, poorest community in all of MO. You can see what Kinloch looks like today in the video tour with Darran Kelly here: http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2010/03/a_video_tour_of_kinloch_the_sa.php.
Kinloch, however, was thriving with about 4,000 residents prior to 1980’s, and was filled with middle class citizens. It was created due to surrounding towns having laws that did not allow black citizens to own land, which lasted through the Civil Rights Movement. By the 1980’s, Lambert Airport started buying surrounding land to expand and create an additional runway, this project displaced 80% of the surrounding neighborhood of Kinloch. These residents were forced to move into the other neighborhoods including Ferguson, specifically the Canfield Green apartment complex that Michael Brown lived in. The crazy part is, Lambert never created the second runway, which is why in the video with Darran Kelly the land is leveled and hardly anyone lives there.
A report by Aljazeera America commented on the thoughts of a protester feeling that, “the near-vacant city has long been a symbol of what many African-Americans in north St. Louis County feel is representative of a social and governmental system in which they have little voice and that they say consistently works against them (3).” Another protester said that a lot of the frustration over in Ferguson is due to this sense of displacement for past Kinloch residents, which mirrors the sense of loss black citizens have within our justice and governmental systems because they cannot seem to get anyone to hear their voice. Ferguson is not the only predominantly black town that feels this way, which is why many have risen up and spoken out about the lack of voice the black community has within governmental institutions.