Visual Essay

Life in Ferguson

A snapshot of the community five years after the death of Michael Brown

July 14, 2019

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Editor's Note

The fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9, 2014, ignited months of protests and helped fuel a broad debate about law enforcement, social justice and reform. The north St. Louis County community found itself thrust into the national spotlight, and the name Ferguson became synonymous with racial unrest, injustice and demands for change.

But as the nation debated the meaning of Ferguson, the city remained home to thousands of people who weathered the storms, fought for reform and persisted despite the challenges. In the months leading up to the fifth anniversary of Brown's death, Post-Dispatch photographers fanned out across Ferguson to show life in the city today.

"We just became friends last summer. We were on the same basketball team," said Khelal Barnett, 15, who hangs out with Tyler Reise, 13, on the curb in front of Reise's home on St. Louis Avenue in Ferguson. The boys had just finished playing basketball in the park. This summer they will mow lawns together for extra money.

People take part in a free Zumba workout before the start of the 10th annual Ferguson Twilight Run.

Alvah Brooks, right, of Chesterfield visits with friends Brian Fowler, left, of Ferguson and George Barron of Spanish Lake at Montrey's Cigar Lounge on South Florissant Road in Ferguson. The bar is a popular gathering spot for members of the River Kings, a law enforcement motorcycle club. Brooks is a retired St. Louis County corrections officer.

Waitresses Dee Dee McCoy, right, and Tyissha McKinney handle a busy lunch crowd at Cathy's Kitchen on South Florissant Road on May 20. what would have been the 23rd birthday of Michael Brown. Owner Cathy Jenkins says some progress has been made, but change comes slowly.

A group of international students from Denmark listen to Dorian Johnson, who was with Michael Brown the day he was shot by a Ferguson police officer. They stopped at a memorial to Brown on his birthday at the Canfield Green apartment complex. The group was touring the United States in an effort to understand America.

Frank McCall

Then interim police chief, Ferguson Police Department

Save Our Sons workforce development specialist Gabriel DeSince, left, outfits Joshua Thomas, 20, of Bellefontaine Neighbors with a new business suit for his upcoming job interview at the Community Empowerment Center in Ferguson. The job training and placement program for young African American men is located on the site of the QuikTrip that burned during the protests following the death of Michael Brown in 2014.

A bride and wedding party pose for photos taken outside the Savoy Banquet Center on South Florissant Road in Ferguson.

"Love thy neighbor," is the message Martha Snead, center, hopes people took away from the Ferguson unrest in 2014. She cheers on runners as they pass her home along Tiffin Avenue during the 10th annual Ferguson Twilight Run. Her home has become a popular water station during the run. Snead's home is just a few blocks from the Ferguson police station and she remembers hearing helicopters, yelling and sirens throughout the months of protests.

"We have to be paying close attention to how our government interacts with its citizens and how we interact with other people and we have to keep fighting back."

Melissa White, of Florissant, serves lunchtime customers at Ferguson Brewing Co.

Parents walk with their children along South Florissant Road on their way to Vogt Elementary. The Ferguson-Florissant School District closed Vogt after the 2018-19 academic year as part of the district's reorganization.

Jamie Dennis

Director, Save Our Sons

"She's like a sweet angel grandma," said Nevaeh Portwood, 11, who takes her turn reading out loud to her neighbor Geraldine Thompson in an outdoor stairway at Park Ridge apartments in Ferguson. Thompson is known in the community as "Grannie Gerry," "Auntie Gerry" or "the lady who takes care of everyone in the complex." Standing is Nevaeh's sister Jordynn, 9, and sitting is Justice Williams, 7.

"I also want people to understand that this is broader than just the death of a young man, but this is about a bigger systemic issue dealing with racism ..."

"I want to change the term the 'Ferguson Effect,' and take it and change it into a positive meaning. Show that the community works together and that's the true 'Ferguson Effect,' coming together after our hardships," said LaTasha Brown, president of Southeast Ferguson Neighborhood Association, who talks with Nick Abde, manager of Sam's Meat Market about the upcoming Juneteenth celebration the association is planning.

Jennifer Graves, right, teaches a sewing class at the Ferguson Municipal Public Library. Graves used to live in Ferguson but now lives in unincorporated North County. Graves helps Chasity Sherwood-Wilson, 11, of Baden, with her pattern for a shorts outfit.

A man and woman watch the Ferguson Twilight Run from a home on North Maple Avenue.

"If there's no working together, how can change be comprehensive for all of us in the community?"

"I really hope that people will come together and work with the people that are putting money into a community and really work together to make it into a community that people enjoy to live in and people want to live in."

"It's the community that determines the legitimacy and knowing that we should always be the one first to the message on describing how our community is viewed."

Brian Eastling walks his son, Brian Eastling Jr., 4, to Griffith Elementary on Chambers Road in Ferguson before taking a bus to work. Eastling, who has lived in Ferguson most of his life and is now raising his son there, says that the change he's seen since Michael Brown's death has been generally good.

Lesley McSpadden places her hand on her son Michael Brown's headstone as she visits his grave in St. Peter's Cemetery in Normandy on Brown's birthday on May 20, 2019. He would have been 23.

Gary Hairlson

Multimedia Director

Jon Naso

Assistant Multimedia Director

David Carson


Robert Cohen


Cristina M. Fletes


Christian Gooden


Hillary Levin


Laurie Skrivan


Andrew Nguyen