On February 5, 1946, the Ferguson brothers were concluding a night out celebrating Charles Ferguson’s reenlistment in the U.S. Army. As Charles, wearing his military uniform, walked with his brothers Alphonso, Joseph and Richard toward the Freeport Bus Terminal to go home, provisional Freeport police officer Joseph Romeika stopped them over a disorderly conduct complaint. Words were exchanged, and within minutes, Officer Romeika shot and killed Charles and Alphonso and injured Joseph.
Following the unarmed shooting, Romeika was acquitted despite the changing stories of eyewitnesses. The shooting became a catalyst for the local civil rights movement and was immortalized in a Woody Guthrie protest song.
Drawing on newly unearthed research and extensive interviews, author Christopher Verga reveals the tragic story and martyrdom of the Ferguson brothers’ killings in his newest book, Ferguson Brothers Lynchings on Long Island: A Civil Rights Catalyst, published by The History Press on Oct. 24.
Verga is an instructor in Long Island history and the foundations of American history at Suffolk Community College and contributes to the online local news sites Greater Babylon, Greater Bay Shore, Greater Patchogue and Fire Island News.
His published works include the Civil Rights Movement on Long Island (Arcadia Publishing, Images of America), Bay Shore (Arcadia Publishing, Images of America), Saving Fire Island from Robert Moses (The History Press), World War II Long Island: The Homefront in Nassau and Suffolk (The History Press) and Cold War Long Island (The History Press). Verga has a doctorate in education from St. John’s University.