University of Iowa history professor holds Ferguson forum

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COLUMBIA - A professor came to the University of Missouri Thursday to speak about his findings regarding the recent events in Ferguson.

Dr. Colin Gordon, a history professor at the University of Iowa, has recently had quotes in publications such as the New York Times about his theories.

He specializes in the study of greater St. Louis and its population.

Thursday night, he spoke to a full house of people in Neff Hall at the University of Missouri about the causes and consequences of St. Louis' urban crisis.

Gordon said St. Louis' historical background has played a key part in the events in Ferguson.

"The protests, I think, are speaking to a wider background of inequalities rather than the sort of immediate grievance of the police violence," Gordon said. "St. Louis has a deep history of racial segregation and local fragmentation, and I think that's the source of the troubles in Ferguson."

During the forum, Gordon commonly referred to 'white flight' and 'black flight', which are the migrations of certain demographics out of urban areas to suburban areas.

"Ferguson is in the path of what I would characterize as 'black flight' out of north St. Louis, flooding into North County and sort of moving across North County," Gordon said. "St. Louis is infamous for a very stark north-south segregation, but we see both the white and the black populations moving steadily west."

Gordon said St. Louis' overall population has declined due to these 'flight' theories.

"All families wanted to move out of the cities as they started to fail. White families had the opportunity to do it sooner," Gordon said. "St. Louis is remarkable because the white families moved out in the '30s, '40s and '50s, and then the black families moved out in the '70s, '80s and '90s, contributing to a substantial de-population of North St. Louis."

Gordon is the author of Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City, which was published in 2009.