The police shooting of Michael Brown was the spark.
But the tinder fueling the anger and resentment that has exploded in Ferguson has been building for decades.
The town has seen many middle-class homeowners who eagerly moved to St. Louis' northern suburbs after World War II to buy brick ranch homes with nice yards leave in later years, replaced by poorer newcomers. Good blue-collar jobs have grown scarce; the factories that once sprouted here have closed shop. Schools have struggled.
And local governments — slow to evolve — often now look little like the people they represent. For the African American community, it creates a sense of lost opportunity in a place much...