Ferguson protests

Protestors and community members gathered at the burnt-down QuikTrip on West Florissant Avenue on August 11, two days after the Ferguson police killing of Michael Brown Jr.

Photographer Lawrence Bryant was on the ground in Ferguson as protests broke out in the days after the shooting of Michael Brown. Throughout the fall and winter of 2014, Bryant continued to document related protests. He donated 323 of these photographs to the Missouri Historical Society in 2018, forming our Lawrence Bryant Collection.

While some may be surprised to learn that we actively collect photographs of current events, our photograph collection documents St. Louis history from the earliest days of photography in the 1840s through the present day. Many of these photos serve to illustrate the impact of national events at the local level, and the involvement of local residents in broader, nationwide movements.

These photographs demonstrate how Brown’s death spurred the local growth of a movement against police violence, and they document the increasing influence of the national Black Lives Matter movement on local protesters. As protests continued in the months after Brown’s death, Ferguson activists began to address the deaths of other Black individuals, both locally and nationally, and they started to protest broader issues of injustice.

By December 2014, Bryant was documenting vigils and protests surrounding the death of Antonio Martin, who was killed by a Berkeley, Missouri police officer, as well as a “United We Stand Silent” march in memory of Black victims of police violence from across the nation. Bryant also captured demonstrations aimed at several regional police departments; initial protests at the Ferguson police department called for justice for Michael Brown, while later demonstrations at the St. Ann and St. Louis police departments protested larger issues of police violence and discrimination.

The Lawrence Bryant Collection provides important insight into local participation in a nationwide movement for racial justice. The issues raised by these protesters continue to be part of the national conversation, and echoes of the Ferguson protests can be seen in the nationwide demonstrations against police violence following the death of George Floyd.

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