Christine Metz Howard
KU News Service

St. Louis Civil Rights Era expert can provide historical context to Ferguson protests

Tue, 08/12/2014

LAWRENCE – A University of Kansas African-American studies professor can provide historical context to the events surrounding the police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old man in Ferguson, Missouri.

Protests, vandalism and looting broke out over the weekend after a police officer shot Michael Brown multiple times in the St. Louis suburb. Clarence Lang, an associate professor of African and African-American studies, has researched black urban communities in the 20th century Midwest. In 2009, he published the book “Grassroots at the Gateway: Class Politics and Black Freedom Struggle in St. Louis, 1936-1975,” and he is an expert on the city’s Civil Rights era.

Lang can speak to St. Louis’ deep history of intentional housing segregation, including a 1948 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that did away with restrictive housing covenants barring people of certain races from occupying property. Historically, Ferguson was a predominately white, inner-ring suburb. Today, 67 percent of the city’s residents are black, and one-fourth of Ferguson’s population lives at or below the poverty level.

Lang can point to similar instances in and around St. Louis to what transpired this weekend. In September 1962, unrest occurred in Kinloch, Missouri, which neighbors Ferguson, after an African-American youth was shot during a traffic stop. In summer 1964, more unrest followed after an altercation involving St. Louis police and local black residents. Due to political leaders and local media, the events didn’t receive the same attention as the race riots in New York, Chicago or Detroit.

“When you have an isolated community with concentrated poverty, police and community relations are often times the match that strikes the fuse," Lang said.

To arrange an interview with Lang, contact Christine Metz Howard at 785-864-8852 or via email.

Tears. Smiles. And hugs. That’s what Match Day brought as KU Medical Center’s first Salina class learned where they would go for their residencies — the next step in their medical training. See the Salina Journal’s report and photos: Tags: #KUworks #KUmatch #Match2015 University of Kansas Medical Center Salina Journal KU School of Medicine-Wichita

Best thing about Kansas? The sunsets. Always. #exploreKU shot by umbrellaphoto on insta.
Lauded race and class historian becomes KU Foundation Professor David Roediger’s award-winning research and writing has already transformed how historians view the growth of social freedoms in America though the intersection of race, class, ethnicity, and labor. Now Roediger, as KU’s first Foundation Distinguished Professor of History (, will continue to break new ground in those fields as he leads KU’s departments of American Studies and History. Roediger likes to study historical flash points — where one particular change brings a cascade of wider cultural changes. His latest book, “Seizing Freedom, Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All,” makes the point that as slaves began freeing themselves across the South during the Civil War, their emancipation inspired and ignited other cultural movements for freedom — such as the women’s movement for suffrage and the labor movement for better working conditions and an eight-hour day. Understanding the individual stories of average people who wanted to make their lives better, including slaves or factory workers, is important to understanding the wider political movements and elections, Roediger said. “It's tempting to think that all the important political questions have been decided,” he said, “but actually people are constantly thinking about what freedom would mean for them.”

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times