America on Fire : The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s
by Hinton, Elizabeth

Drawing on new sources, a leading scholar presents a groundbreaking story of policing and "riots" that shatters our understanding of the post-civil rights era, arguing that we cannot understand the civil rights moment without coming to terms with the astonishing violence, and hugely expanded policing regime, that followed it.

*Starred Review* In the 1960s and 1970s, American cities experienced extreme violence. Often called riots, these events are more accurately understood as rebellions. In America on Fire, political historian Hinton explores the origins and outcomes of Black rebellions of the twentieth century. While many uprisings were tied to acts of police brutality, many occurred after ongoing surveillance and harassment in under-resourced Black communities. In cities across the country, Black residents experienced years of ongoing violence at the hands of police and white vigilante groups. After uprisings, community leaders repeatedly requested access to resources and freedom from over-policing. Cities and state governments often reacted by dismissing concerns entirely, offering unfulfilled promises, and further militarizing the police. Despite investigations that highlighted root causes in white racism and disinvestment in Black communities, little changed in the 1980s and 1990s. Hinton masterfully examines multiple incidents across the country, illustrating not only the prevalence of rebellions but how ongoing violent racial discrimination is horrifically common. As Hinton links the history of rebellion to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, readers will be struck by the generational echoes of Black Americans' struggle for justice. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Thought-provoking examination of "the cycle," whereby minority protests against police brutality beget only more violence. Yale historian Hinton focuses largely on Black communities. Early on, she recounts the history of lynch mobs across the country, reacting to Black advances in economic well-being and civil rights through armed violence, "a means to police the activities of Black people and to limit their access to jobs, leisure, franchise and to the political sphere." In time, police forces came to do this work, and the result, "especially between 1968 and 1972," was "internal violence on a scale not seen since the Civil War." In a pattern all too familiar to minority citizens and, after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, to everyone with the means to see, the police typically react with more violence when some previous act of their violence is called into question. This is in some measure, by Hinton's account, because of easily exploited calls on the parts of politicians and some voters for "law and order," which in turn hinges on White fears "that Black people might rise up in violence," fears that began with the first enslaved Black person on the continent. The cycle of public rebellions begins, as the author sharply describes it, with the police interfering with some ordinary activity, whether skateboarding or drinking in a park, and then confronting other young people who arrive to aid their peers. That cycle, Hinton persuasively argues, "began with the police." Here she quotes James Baldwin, who noted that police rampaged minority communities "like an occupying soldier in a bitterly hostile country." Among Hinton's many villains are one-time Florida state's attorney Janet Reno, who declined to prosecute "police officers who violently attacked or killed Black residents." Other attorneys have followed suit to this day-and so, Hinton's well-reasoned and emphatically argued book has it, the cycle continues and shows no signs of abating. A must-read for all concerned with civil rights and social justice in modern America. Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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