The Making of Ferguson: How Decades of Hostile Policy Created a Powder Keg
Williams had been living in the St. Louis ghetto and worked as an assistant school principal in Wellston, a black St. Louis suburb. His wife, Geraldine, taught in a state special education school. They could afford to live in middle-class Ferguson, and hoped to protect their three daughters from the violence of their St. Louis neighborhood. The girls would also get better educations in Ferguson than in Wellston, where Williams worked, because Ferguson’s stronger tax base provided more money per pupil than did Wellston’s; Ferguson could afford more skilled teachers, smaller classes, and extra enrichment programs.
Williams was familiar with Ferguson because he once lived in the neighboring black suburb of Kinloch. (California Congresswoman Maxine Waters and the comedian and activist Dick Gregory grew up there.) In those years, Williams could enter Ferguson only during daytime; until the mid-1960s, Ferguson barred African Americans after dark, blocking the main road from Kinloch with a chain and construction materials. A second road remained open so housekeepers and nannies could get from Kinloch to jobs in Ferguson.