This Day in History

Feb. 5, 1946: Ferguson Brothers Killed By Police on Long Island

Time Periods: Cold War: 1945 - 1960
Themes: African American, Laws & Citizen Rights, Organizing, Racism & Racial Identity

On February 5, 1946, two African American brothers — Charles and Alphonso Ferguson — were shot and killed by a white police officer in the segregated Freeport neighborhood of Long Island, New York. Charles Ferguson, a 27-year-old World War II veteran, was shot first and died instantly. The second bullet wounded brother Joseph Ferguson, just 20 years old, before fatally hitting 25-year-old Alphonso Ferguson in the head. A fourth brother, veteran Richard Ferguson, was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, tried, and convicted before his conviction was overturned on appeal.

book cover showing four Black brothers who endured police violence, and the protesters who fought on their behalf.The officer claimed that the four brothers were using “abusive and threatening language.” Military tribunals later found the Fergusons were not at fault in the incident. Public outcry mounted when the Nassau County District Attorney ruled that the shootings were justified and a new hearing was authorized later that year.

The two surviving Ferguson brothers testified about the police misconduct and murders, but the police provided corroborating witnesses and no cross-examination was permitted for the plaintiffs. Protesting this white-washing of the incident, many supporters of the Ferguson brothers walked out of the hearing in protest. The officer was eventually exonerated of any wrongdoing.

Learn more about his horrible instance of police violence in Christopher Verga’s The Ferguson Brothers Lynchings on Long Island: A Civil Rights Catalyst.