Ferguson, Missouri, is a majority-black city governed and policed mostly by whites. The mayor is white. The police chief is white. The police force is 94 percent white. Only one of its six city council members is black. Ferguson, with a 67 percent black population, seem to defy electoral logic

Ferguson was founded in 1855 on 10 acres of land with its train Wabash RR train depot at its center. It became a city in 1894.

The population of Ferguson grew rapidly during the first six decades of the twentieth century, from 1,015 people in 1900 to 22,149 people in 1960, an average growth rate of 5% per year. Since 1960 the population has remained nearly constant but the racial makeup of the city has undergone radical change.

In 1990, residents of Ferguson who were identified in the U.S. Census as White comprised 73.8% of the total, while those identified as Black made up 25.1%.

In the 2000 census, 44.7% were White and 52.4% were African American.

In the 2010 census its population 21,203 was 29.3% White and 67.4% African American. The remaining 3.3% is Hispanic, Asian, Native American and other in that other.

The pattern of re-population in Ferguson is common throughout city of St. Louis’ inner-ring suburbs. In St. Louis deteriorating schools, infrastructure, and services along with rising unemployment pushed African Americans from the neighborhoods in the city that had at one time been warrens for other immigrant groups: Irish, Italians, Poles, Bohemians et. al.

They went where those previous settlers went- to the suburbs- and pushed those groups further out from the city. The white population was nearly halved from 1990 to 2000 and then again from 2000 to 2010.

The whites who remained did so largely because they owned businesses in or near the town or they lacked the resources to make a move. One thing is clear in speak with white residents. They did not intend to give up “their town” without a fight. They organized and they focused on clear goals. One was keeping the town government in the hands of the long time residents.

The issue boils down to who votes. Ferguson’s black community is younger, poorer, more transient, than the white population. All of these factors make black residents less likely to go to the polls, especially in low-turnout municipal elections. And so whites, whose roots are deeper and who are organized to mobilize, dominate politically.

By way of example…..6 of the 7 seat on the city’s school board were held by whites in 2013 with the 7th Hispanic. The board had been in a power struggle with a young superintendent of schools, Art McCoy, and eventually suspended him. There were protests at school board meetings and even some public demonstrations.

In the wake of the controversy, three black candidates chose to run for the school board; despite the anger over McCoy’s ouster, only one managed to win a seat.

The same pattern has prevailed in every election to every office and every board including those that oversee the hiring of public safety officers.

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It’s far simpler than that gentle friend MurphTheSurf3.

Poor minorities anywhere in America are almost guaranteed to never succeed.

Because we don’t have equal education. Schools are funded by local taxes, mostly property taxes, so that poor people have to overcome extraordinary obstacles, like getting books and pencils.

While the rich luxuriate in giant stadiums, and swimming pools.

If you’re rich, you get the rich mans education. If you’re poor you get to suffer and die.

Before you even have a chance at a partial education.

That is the truth of the America we have become.

Thanks to the elitist and racist Republican Party. And amazingly, the Libertarians would even be worse.


And desperate crimes.

Always together.”

A Future of the Brave


Murph–I don’t think changing the racial balance of elected officials in Ferguson (by itself) will fix the problems that surround the way the city is policed. There have been three questionable NYPD killings of African Americans in NYC in the last 18 months or so (Kimany Gray, Ramarley Graham and Eric Garner), and the first two garnered almost no coverage or attention. This in a city with far better minority representation in politics. I have a bucket full of protest buttons over such killings (dating back to the 1980’s), and nobody seems to be able to break the pattern at the NYPD.

Ferguson is also troubled by the same problems as Camden or Detroit–high unemployment and deindustrialization. Changing the faces on the city council won’t be enough to reverse corporate trends that are moving decent wage jobs abroad.


Murph, I would be very interested in hearing from you on the deeper rift and problems in Ferguson. Rather than just the demographics (which are incredibly important), what about the tenor of those living there. What are they saying; the average moms and dads who go to work every day or are busy looking for that elusive job?

You were there; what did those you spoke with say about the situation, the policies and the police militarization? How about how it is affecting their everyday life and how they view their future?

Perhaps you have written an article about it elsewhere, but I couldn’t find it and am ansty in anticipation to hear from the source. Please, what else can you tell us about this situation and how those involved view their very future?

Personally, I am grateful you went, perhaps it is because I so wanted to be there as well…but nevertheless, it took guts and I just want to say “thanks”.


There might also be a short and not-so-sweet answer to this question in this article on the seamy underbelly of Ferguson. Which appears to be a town that supports itself — to the tune of over $2 million — on trumped up charges, phony traffic stops and fines.

They seem to escalate changes on minority people to the point at which they’re ending up as “felons” — which naturally would make voting and running for office very difficult.



From Slate:

You can’t really understand Ferguson unless you understand J.D. Shelley. He was a middle-class black man from north St. Louis who in 1945 bought a home in a neighborhood just a few minutes east of Ferguson, unaware of the restrictive covenant that barred its sale to “people of the Negro or Asian Race.” Alas, this move inflamed Louis Kraemer, who lived ten blocks away and was well aware of the covenant. Kraemer was temporarily vindicated when the Missouri Supreme court backed his lawsuit to enforce the covenant, but the United States Supreme Court overturned the Missouri ruling and forbade the state from enforcing such private agreements. In the wake of the Shelley v. Kraemer decision, blacks began to move out of crowded north St. Louis City, where many had been packed into high-rise projects such as the infamous Pruitt-Igoe, to north St. Louis County.

This exodus created massive tension between increasingly black suburban electorates and white leaders whose stranglehold on municipal political power was total. The North County white power structure’s supplying of jobs in public safety departments, and of lucrative construction and service contracts, to white allies cemented their status as political and economic elites—and the status of blacks as disempowered outsiders.


I could go on, but if you have read these articles, one by the way is where you got most of your information so you should be able to just peruse that one, the other gives you more detailed information as to why things are as they are in Ferguson, voting is the least of those peoples problems.


We can voice an opinion on the failures of not voting in any town, but we don’t live there, or feel their history of oppression, so who are we to judge?

Are any of us rolling up our sleeves to go there to help to empower them? Then why criticise what we don’t know for sure? We are not lawmakers, we can only vote in any country to make slow changes in policy. If the “we the people” were so powerful, then “we the people” would have taken to the streets by now to protest all over America. The people of Ferguson are not too tired or disorganised to vote, they are just too tired of discrimination and having to fight against it. Hence the continuing protests. Sometimes enough is really enough.

The biggest shame that America faces is that those being discriminated against the most, are American citizens.

I have no country to feel patriotic about, but consider myself to be a citizen of the world. Therefore what is happening in America is very painful and affects me too.


Excellent comment Kalima…please read this article, it will give you more understanding regarding this issue:


Thank you.


Nice try, but no cigar:

The immediate problem in Ferguson is neither residential segregation nor its demise. Rather, as many have pointed out, it is that the racial integration of the community has not been reflected in the municipal government and police force, whose racial composition still reflects the status quo of the 1980s.

In fact, the problem is even worse in some of the communities surrounding Ferguson. For instance, Black Jack and Jennings are over 80 percent African American, with white mayors and evenly divided city councils. Hazelwood and Florissant have all-white city councils in spite of black populations of around 30 percent. Six out of seven members of the board of the overwhelmingly black Ferguson-Florissant School district are white.

Although low voter turnout has been a problem for blacks in Ferguson and some other counties, this has been orchestrated. Honestly, this has very little to do with voting or economic worth of the people of Ferguson…this is systemic and cannot be equated to anything other than racism in America.

Historically, off-cycle elections have been a favored strategy of established ethnic groups in American cities who wished to keep immigrants and minorities out of power. In North St. Louis County, the most organized groups are white homeowners who have been in the same neighborhood since the 1970s, along with police officers and municipal employees who benefit from the status quo, and they have been able to dominate local elections.

Learn more here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/08/18/is-segregation-the-problem-in-ferguson/


Murph, I think you have answered your own question. You said: “The issue boils down to who votes. Ferguson’s black community is younger, poorer, more transient, than the white population. All of these factors make black residents less likely to go to the polls, especially in low-turnout municipal elections. And so whites, whose roots are deeper and who are organized to mobilize, dominate politically.”

I watched the unfolding drama on Al Jazeera English and this was mooted as the main problem, that the black population was not organised enough to mount campaigns for local office. I don’t know all, of course, but I still keep asking myself if the malaise is deeper than just that. I don’t know the answer, anyway, as to how to to re-educate racist whites that it’s not OK to gun down unarmed alleged thieves. It’s chilling that one of the thoughts that came into my mind was the old Nazi excuse: ‘Shot while trying to escape’.


You have some of the answers listed PPO, there are many more answers to the puzzle. You are correct in connecting the police in St. Louis county with the Nazi’s, they actually wear brown shirts, and are called the brown shirts by the citizens of Ferguson…coincidence? Maybe not. 🙂


Sounds like they need some help from a group like the NAACP to get an awareness campaign,and voter registration happening


Or, maybe all they need is equality and the elimination of trickery during the scheduling of elections and so much more that most people are not aware of.

Public policy in the United States is the product of decisions made by more than 500,000 elected officials, and the vast majority of those officials are elected on days other than Election Day. And because far fewer voters turn out for off-cycle elections, that means the majority of officials in America are elected by a politically motivated minority of Americans. Sarah F. Anzia is the first to systemically address the effects of election timing on political outcomes, and her findings are eye-opening.

The low turnout for off-cycle elections, Anzia argues, increases the influence of organized interest groups like teachers’ unions and municipal workers. While such groups tend to vote at high rates regardless of when the election is held, the low turnout in off-cycle years enhances the effectiveness of their mobilization efforts and makes them a proportionately larger bloc. Throughout American history, the issue of election timing has been a contentious one. Anzia’s book traces efforts by interest groups and political parties to change the timing of elections to their advantage, resulting in the electoral structures we have today. Ultimately, what might seem at first glance to be mundane matters of scheduling are better understood as tactics designed to distribute political power, determining who has an advantage in the electoral process and who will control government at the municipal, county, and state levels.