The nation’s top law enforcement official, who is the first African-American named to the post, said he hoped his presence and interest in the case would have a “calming influence on the area.”
Ferguson has been roiled by angry protests, rock and bottle throwing and some looting since Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Brown was African-American and Wilson is white.
Holder told people in Ferguson that he understood their mistrust of police.
“I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man,” Holder said. “I've confronted this myself.”
The AG recalled being stopped by police on the way to a movie in Georgetown, a well-to-do suburb of Washington, DC.
“Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells, 'Where you going? Hold it,’” Holder told residents. “Now my cousin started mouthing off. I'm like, 'This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.'”
“At the time that [the police officer] stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn't a kid. I was a federal prosecutor. I worked at the United States Department of Justice,” he said. Holder said the encounter left him “angry and upset.”
The attorney general also described having his car searched during routine traffic stops on the New Jersey Turnpike.
“I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was,” he said.
“My hope is that will give people some degree of confidence,” he said.
The AG congratulated Missouri Highway Police Capt. Ron Johnson, who was called in to take charge of policing in Ferguson.
“My man, you are the man,” Holder told Johnson. “You’re making a real difference.”
ABC News’ Steven Portnoy contributed to this report.