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

Elizabeth Hinton. Liveright, $28.95 (286p) ISBN 978-1-63149-890-9
America’s seasons of unrest were an understandable response to a racist police state, according to this impassioned history. Yale historian Hinton (From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime) surveys smaller-scale Black “rebellions” that erupted from 1968 to 1972 in towns like Cairo, Ill.; York, Pa.; and Alexandria, Va., along with the 1980 Miami uprising, the 1992 Los Angeles riot, and recent Black Lives Matter protests. Her narrative elucidates a common cycle of escalation: abrasive or violent police intrusions attracted rock-throwing Black crowds, then police—and sometimes allied white vigilantes—imposed brutal crackdowns that provoked looting, firebombings, and gunfire. She paints rebellions as a militant form of civil rights activism that sought “structural change” and “community control of resources,” and castigates policymakers who responded with anticrime measures that inflamed tensions rather than providing jobs, education, and housing. Hinton presents a strong case that harsh policing and systemic disadvantages sparked violence, but she downplays antipolice violence, including sniper fire aimed at officers, and doesn’t fully reckon with the economic damage rebellions caused to Black communities. The result is a searing yet one-sided history. Photos. Agent: Adam Eaglin, the Cheney Agency. (May)
Reviewed on : 03/02/2021
Release date: 05/18/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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