The history of St. Louis is replete with discriminatory housing laws, policies, and practices: racially restrictive covenants, redlining, blockbusting and white flight, and exclusionary zoning. While these were common in virtually every part of the United States, they were particularly egregious, widespread, and pervasive in industrial Midwestern cities like Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis – which saw a large influx of blacks migrating from the south at the close of the nineteenth century. In fact, three of the most foundational housing cases originated in St. Louis. When we look closely at these cases – not just the legal principles that they established but the physical, racial geography of the homes, neighborhoods, and cities that were contested – we can see how they reflected the racist forces that shaped the reality of modern metropolitan St. Louis. This can give us insight into what happened in Ferguson and why.

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