In response to recent events in Brooklyn Center MN, the following curated reading list provides information regarding ongoing injustices and discriminatory practices perpetuated by a lack of criminal justice reform that’s historically targeted Black Americans. In the aftermath of the police killing of Daunte Wright, here are resources for donating and healing.
by Michael S. Sherry
The Punitive Turn in American Life offers a political and cultural history of the ways in which punishment and surveillance have moved to the center of American life and become imbued with militarized language and policies. Michael S. Sherry argues that, by the 1990s, the “war on crime” had been successfully broadcast to millions of Americans at an enormous cost—to those arrested, imprisoned, or killed and to the social fabric of the nation—and that the currents of vengeance that ran through the punitive turn, underwriting torture at home and abroad, found a new voice with the election of Donald J. Trump.
by Rachel Marie-Crane Williams
In the heat of June in 1943, a wave of destructive and deadly civil unrest took place in the streets of Detroit. The city was under the pressures of both wartime industrial production and the nascent civil rights movement, setting the stage for massive turmoil and racial violence. Thirty-four people were killed, most of whom were Black, and over half of these were killed by police. Two thousand people were arrested, and over seven hundred sustained injuries requiring treatment at local hospitals. With Run Home If You Don’t Want to Be Killed, Rachel Marie-Crane Williams delivers a graphic retelling of the racism and tension leading up to the violence of those summer days.
The Color of the Third Degree: Racism, Police Torture, and Civil Rights in the American South, 1930–1955
by Silvan Niedermeier
Available for the first time in English, The Color of the Third Degree uncovers the still-hidden history of police torture in the Jim Crow South. Based on a wide array of previously neglected archival sources, Silvan Niedermeier argues that as public lynching decreased, less visible practices of racial subjugation and repression became central to southern white supremacy. In an effort to deter unruly white mobs, as well as oppress black communities, white southern law officers violently extorted confessions and testimony from black suspects and defendants in jail cells and police stations to secure speedy convictions. In response, black citizens and the NAACP fought to expose these brutal practices through individual action, local organizing, and litigation. In spite of these efforts, police torture remained a widespread, powerful form of racial control and suppression well into the late twentieth century.
by Gail Wiliams O’Brien
Drawing on oral interviews and a rich array of written sources, Gail Williams O’Brien tells the dramatic story of the Columbia “race riot,” the national attention it drew, and its surprising legal aftermath. In the process, she illuminates the effects of World War II on race relations and the criminal justice system in the United States. O’Brien argues that the Columbia events are emblematic of a nationwide shift during the 1940s from mob violence against African Americans to increased confrontations between blacks and the police and courts. As such, they reveal the history behind such contemporary conflicts as the Rodney King and O. J. Simpson cases.
by Lance Hill
Lance Hill offers the first detailed history of the Deacons for Defense and Justice, who grew to several hundred members and twenty-one chapters in the Deep South and led some of the most successful local campaigns in the civil rights movement. In his analysis of this important yet long-overlooked organization, Hill challenges what he calls “the myth of nonviolence”—the idea that a united civil rights movement achieved its goals through nonviolent direct action led by middle-class and religious leaders.
From the Bullet to the Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Racial Coalition Politics in Chicago
by Jakobi Williams
In this comprehensive history of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party (ILBPP), Chicago native Jakobi Williams demonstrates that the city’s Black Power movement was both a response to and an extension of the city’s civil rights movement. Williams focuses on the life and violent death of Fred Hampton, a charismatic leader who served as president of the NAACP Youth Council and continued to pursue a civil rights agenda when he became chairman of the revolutionary Chicago-based Black Panther Party.