The Intersection of Race and Policing

Endorsed by the OAH Committee on the Status of ALANA Historians and ALANA Histories

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: African American; Politics; Race


Three years after the protests surrounding the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, activists continue to challenge the systemic problem of police violence in the United States and its colonial territories. During the covid-19 pandemic, the victories—albeit limited—garnered by the 2020 uprisings were challenged as many politicians, journalists, and law enforcement officers suggested that a rise in the crime rate resulted from these reforms. This panel gathers some of the nation’s leading scholars on race and policing to discuss the history of law enforcement’s use of force against communities of color and to consider strategies for bringing an end to state-sanctioned violence. The panelists will draw insights on their past and/or current research projects that explore the intersection of race and policing.

Session Participants

Chair: LaShawn Harris, Michigan State University
LaShawn Harris is an associate professor of History at Michigan State University and assistant editor for the Journal of African American History (JAAH). Her area of expertise includes twentieth century African American and Black Women’s histories. Harris’s scholarly essays are published in The Journal of African American History, Journal of Social History, Journal of Urban History, Journal of Women’s History, and SOULS: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society. Her first monograph, Sex Workers, Psychics, and Number Runners: Black Women in New York City’s Underground Economy, won the 2017 Organization of American Historians' (OAH) Darlene Clark Hine award for the best book in African American women's and gender history and the Philip Taft Labor Prize from The Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA) and the Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) School at Cornell University. Harris’s work has been featured in popular media outlets, including TV-One, Glamour Magazine, Elle, Vice, and Black Perspectives. Harris’s current research project explores the socioeconomic and political lives of African American women in New York City during the 1980s.

Panelist: Simon Balto, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Simon Balto is a scholar, writer, and teacher of History and African American Studies. He is the author of the multi-award-winning Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power (University of North Carolina Press, 2019). He is a regular contributor for The Guardian, and has written for multiple scholarly and popular publications, including TIME, The Washington Post, The Baffler, The Progressive, The Journal of African American History, Journal of Urban History, and Labor, among others. His media appearances include live interviews on the BBC World News, CNBC, and Al-Jazeera, as well as dozens of interviews for print pieces published around the world. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison after previously working at the University of Iowa and Ball State University. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships, including from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. He is currently at work on three new major projects. The first (untitled, under contract with Liveright) is a history of white mob terrorism in the United States from Reconstruction to the civil rights era, the state’s refusal and inability to reckon with it, and the ways this shaped the nation socially, culturally, politically, and economically. The second (under contract with Haymarket Books), titled “I am a Revolutionary”: The Political Life and Legacy of Fred Hampton, is a biography of the life and political afterlife of Fred Hampton, the brilliant organizer and leader of the Illinois Black Panther Party, who was murdered by the FBI and the Chicago Police Department in 1969 at the age of twenty-one. The last, titled Racial Framing: Blackface Criminals in Jim Crow America, explores the history of white people donning blackface when committing crimes, black condemnations of and campaigns against the practice (including by Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells), and what that history shows us about racial condemnation and racist conceptions of criminality in the United States.

Panelist: Johanna Fernandez, Baruch College, City University of New York
Johanna Fernández is the author of The Young Lords: A Radical History (UNC Press, February 2020), a history of the Puerto Rican counterpart of the Black Panther Party. She teaches 20th Century US history and the history of social movements. Dr. Fernández’s recent research and litigation has unearthed an arsenal of primary documents now available to scholars and members of the public. Her Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) lawsuit against the NYPD, led to the recovery of the “lost” Handschu files, the largest repository of police surveillance records in the country, namely over one million surveillance files of New Yorkers compiled by the NYPD between 1954-1972, including those of Malcolm X. She is the editor of Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal (City Lights, 2015). With Mumia Abu-Jamal she co-edited a special issue of the journal Socialism and Democracy, titled The Roots of Mass Incarceration in the US: Locking Up Black Dissidents and Punishing the Poor (Routledge, 2014). Among others, her awards include the Fulbright Scholars grant to the Middle East and North Africa, which took her to Jordan, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship of the Scholars-in-Residence program at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library. Professor Fernández is the writer and producer of the film, Justice on Trial: the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (BigNoise Films, 2010).  She directed and co-curated ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York, an exhibition in three NYC museums cited by the New York Times as one of the year’s Top 10, Best In Art.  Her mainstream writings have been published internationally, from Al Jazeera to the Huffington Post. She has appeared in a diverse range of print, radio, online and televised media including NPR, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Democracy Now!. Fernández is the recipient of a B.A. in Literature and American Civilization from Brown University and a Ph.D. in U.S. History from Columbia University.

Panelist: Elizabeth Kai Hinton, Yale University
Elizabeth Hinton is Associate Professor in the Department of History and the Department of African American Studies at Yale, with a secondary appointment as Professor of Law at the Law School. Considered one of the nation's leading experts on criminalization and policing, Hinton's research focuses on the persistence of poverty, racial inequality, and urban violence in the 20th century United States. She is the author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America and America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s, which were both selected as New York Times Notable Books. Her articles and op-eds can be found in the pages of Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, New York Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Boston Review, and Time.

Panelist: Treva Lindsey, Ohio State University
Treva Lindsey specializes in African American women’s history, black popular and expressive culture, black feminism(s), hip hop studies, critical race and gender theory, and sexual politics. Her first book is Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood in Washington D.C. She has published in The Journal of Pan-African Studies, Souls, African and Black Diaspora, the Journal of African American Studies, African American Review, The Journal of African American History, Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, Urban Education, The Black Scholar, Feminist Studies, Signs, and the edited collection, Escape from New York: The New Negro Renaissance Beyond Harlem. She was the inaugural Equity for Women and Girls of Color Fellow at Harvard University (2016-2017). She is currently working on her next book project tentatively titled, Hear Our Screams: Black Women, Violence, and The Struggle for Justice. She is also the recipient of several awards and fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Emory University, the National Women’s Studies Association, the Coca Cola Critical Difference for Women Grant, the Center for Arts and Humanities at the University of Missouri and the College of Arts and Sciences at The Ohio State University. Dr. Lindsey was the inaugural recipient of the University of Missouri Faculty Achievement in Diversity Award. She is the co-editor of a forthcoming collection on the future of Black Popular Culture Studies (NYU Press). Dr. Lindsey is also the current co-chair of the Women of Color Leadership Project for the National Women's Studies Association. She is building a strong online presence by guest contributing to  Al Jazeera, BET, Complex Magazine, Cosmopolitan, HuffPost Live, NPR, The Root, and The Marc Steiner Show.