Blacks and Law Enforcement: A History

law enforcement

If you’re black, law enforcement is more likely to kill you.

There seems to be an idea that activists and protesters against brutality are either pointing to a select few recent incidents or are looking at incidents and “racializing” them. I believe this disconnect is due to a lack of understanding of the history between law enforcement and the black community. There is a long and persistent record.


Slave Patrols were organized groups of white men who monitored and enforced discipline upon black slaves in the antebellum U.S. southern states. Slave patrols’ function was to police slaves, especially runaways and defiant slaves. They also formed river patrols to prevent escape by boat. Slave patrols were first established in South Carolina in 1704, and the idea spread throughout the colonies.
With the Civil War lost, Southern whites’ fears of blacks were not diminished. Anxieties about racial control actually increased, and even though slavery and patrols were legally broken down, the patrol system still survived.
Almost immediately in the aftermath of the war, informal patrols sprang into action. Later, city and rural police squads, along with the help of Union army officers, revived patrolling practices among free men. During Reconstruction, old style patrol methods resurfaced and were enforced by postwar Southern police officers and also by organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.


After Reconstruction, lynching became a threat used to terrorize blacks and maintain the new, racist social order that was being constructed. Congress had housed many southern Republicans who sought to protect black voting rights by using federal troops. A congressional deal to elect Rutherford B. Hayes as President in 1876 included a pledge to end Reconstruction in the South.
The Redeemers, white racists who often included White Cappers and Ku Klux Klan members, began to break any political power that blacks had gained during Reconstruction. Lynchings were seen as supporting the new status quo, and were carried out in public in the presence of law enforcement often with tacit if not outright approval.

Jim Crow

Jim Crow laws, beginning in the 1890’s, used terror and lynching to enforce formal laws and a variety of unwritten rules of conduct meant to ensure white domination. Often Jim Crow tensions went hand in hand with economic tensions. In 1887, ten thousand workers at sugar plantations in Louisiana, organized by the Knights of Labor, went on strike for an increase in their pay to $1.25 a day. Most of the workers were black, but some were white, infuriating Governor Samuel Douglas, who declared that “God Almighty has himself drawn the color line.” The militia was called in, but then withdrawn to give free rein to a lynch mob in Thibodaux, which killed somewhere between 20 and 300 people.
From 1889 to 1923, most years saw 50-100 lynchings. While the vast majority of lynchings were of blacks, Italian-Americans were the second most common target of lynchings. On March 14, 1891 eleven Italian-Americans were lynched in New Orleans after a jury found them not guilty in the case of the murder of a New Orleans police chief. The eleven were falsely accused of being associated with the Mafia. This incident was the largest mass lynching in US history.

Civil Rights Movement

After World War II, African Americans increasingly challenged segregation, as they believed they had more than earned the right to be treated as full citizens because of their military service and sacrifices. Isaac Woodard was an African American World War II veteran who was attacked by South Carolina police in 1946, while still in uniform, hours after being honorably discharged from the United States Army. His attack and injuries sparked national outrage and galvanized the civil rights movement in the United States.
The attack by South Carolina police left Woodard completely and permanently blind. Due to South Carolina’s reluctance to pursue the case, President Harry S. Truman ordered a federal investigation. The sheriff was indicted and went to trial in federal court in South Carolina, where he was acquitted by an all-white jury.
Beginning shortly after this in 1946, President Harry S. Truman embarked on several major civil rights initiatives: he established a national interracial commission, made a historic speech to the NAACP and the nation in June 1947 describing civil rights as a moral priority, submitted a civil rights bill to Congress in February 1948, and issued Executive Orders 9981 and 9980 on the same day to desegregate the armed forces and the federal government.

War on Drugs

We detail it’s failings here. The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug war misery suffered by communities of color. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites. Higher arrest and incarceration rates for African Americans and Latinos are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales in these communities, but rather of a law enforcement focus on urban areas, on lower-income communities and on communities of color as well as inequitable treatment by the criminal justice system. The mass criminalization of people of color, particularly young African American men, is as profound a system of racial control as the Jim Crow laws were in this country.

Stop and Frisk

Under the Fourth Amendment, police officers can legally stop and detain a person only when they have a reasonable suspicion that the person is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime. Over the years, however, the Police Department has adopted a strategy that encourages cops to stop and question mainly minority citizens first and to come up with reasons for having done so later. This has resulted in people in some neighborhoods being stopped without reason scores of times a year.
The city conducted an astounding 4.4 million stops between January 2004 and June 2012. Of these, only 6 percent resulted in arrests and 6 percent resulted in summonses. In other words, 88 percent of the 4.4 million stops resulted in no further action — meaning a vast majority of those stopped were doing nothing wrong. More than half of all people stopped were frisked, yet only 1.5 percent of frisks found weapons. In about 83 percent of cases, the person stopped was black or Hispanic, even though the two groups accounted for just over half the population.
The NYPD justified the disparity because minority citizens commit more crimes. But as the Judge who ruled that the tactics were unconstitutional stated, “this reasoning is flawed because the stopped population is overwhelmingly innocent — not criminal. There is no basis for assuming that an innocent population shares the same characteristics as the criminal suspect population in the same area.” The evidence clearly showed that the police carried out more stops on black and Hispanic residents even when other relevant factors were controlled for, and officers were more likely to use force against minority residents even though stops of minorities were less likely to result in weapons seizures than stops of whites.

A History of Police and Black People

Since slavery, whether Reconstruction; lynching; The Civil Rights Movement; The War on Drugs; or Stop and Frisk, protesters and activists haven’t been pointing to “a few isolated incidents” to “stir the pot”. There is a long and storied history of corruption, mistreatment and abuse of the black community and communities of color by law enforcement. An understanding of this history will be key in unlocking the meaning behind these protests, and how we move forward to resolve these issues.



Kwaisi France

An 80's baby forged in the 90's and unleashed upon the world in the 21st century, Kwaisi France is a Baltimore raised Brooklyn resident.

You may also like...

47 Responses

  1. April 18, 2017

    washer repair cost

    […]Sites of interest we’ve a link to[…]

  2. April 18, 2017

    next page

    […]usually posts some incredibly intriguing stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[…]

  3. April 18, 2017

    frigidaire appliance service

    […]the time to study or visit the content material or web pages we have linked to below the[…]

  4. April 18, 2017

    tow truck service provider near ecorse

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a handful of unrelated data, nevertheless seriously worth taking a look, whoa did a single understand about Mid East has got extra problerms also […]

  5. April 18, 2017

    jerr dan used tow trucks for sale

    […]Sites of interest we’ve a link to[…]

  6. April 18, 2017

    Insta Followers

    […]Here are some of the web-sites we advocate for our visitors[…]

  7. April 18, 2017

    online business

    […]just beneath, are numerous totally not associated sites to ours, however, they’re surely worth going over[…]

  8. April 18, 2017

    escape games

    […]here are some hyperlinks to internet sites that we link to since we assume they’re worth visiting[…]

  9. April 19, 2017

    Cong ty dich thuat

    […]always a huge fan of linking to bloggers that I appreciate but do not get lots of link appreciate from[…]

  10. April 19, 2017

    birth control traveling time zone

    […]that will be the end of this report. Here you’ll find some web pages that we think you will value, just click the hyperlinks over[…]

  11. April 19, 2017

    corset sale

    […]although web sites we backlink to beneath are considerably not related to ours, we really feel they are in fact worth a go by way of, so possess a look[…]

  12. April 19, 2017

    internet domains

    […]The information talked about within the write-up are a number of the most beneficial out there […]

  13. April 19, 2017

    home dumpster service

    […]here are some hyperlinks to websites that we link to simply because we feel they are worth visiting[…]

  14. April 19, 2017

    waste disposal containers

    […]very handful of internet websites that happen to be detailed below, from our point of view are undoubtedly properly really worth checking out[…]

  15. April 20, 2017


    That would be the end of this article. Right here you will find some web pages that we believe you’ll appreciate, just click the hyperlinks.

  16. April 20, 2017

    w hotel fashion week

    […]Sites of interest we have a link to[…]

  17. April 20, 2017

    browse this site

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine several unrelated information, nonetheless definitely worth taking a search, whoa did a single find out about Mid East has got much more problerms too […]

  18. April 20, 2017

    pay stub service

    […]that is the finish of this report. Right here you?ll find some internet sites that we assume you?ll value, just click the hyperlinks over[…]

  19. April 20, 2017

    Houston pay stub service

    […]usually posts some really exciting stuff like this. If you?re new to this site[…]

  20. April 20, 2017

    Classified jobs for Teenagers

    […]just beneath, are several entirely not associated web pages to ours, however, they are certainly worth going over[…]

  21. April 20, 2017

    Online Defensive Driving

    […]one of our guests recently encouraged the following website[…]

  22. April 21, 2017

    Classified homes for sale

    […]we prefer to honor several other net internet sites around the net, even if they aren?t linked to us, by linking to them. Beneath are some webpages worth checking out[…]

  23. April 21, 2017

    سرور مجاری فرانسه

    […]please check out the web pages we follow, such as this one particular, as it represents our picks in the web[…]

  24. April 21, 2017

    Online Defensive Driving

    […]below you will locate the link to some web pages that we believe you must visit[…]

  25. April 21, 2017

    Free classified advertising website

    […]Every as soon as in a even though we pick out blogs that we study. Listed below are the latest websites that we pick out […]

  26. April 21, 2017

    Online Defensive Driving

    […]check beneath, are some entirely unrelated web-sites to ours, having said that, they may be most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  27. April 21, 2017

    smd ceramic capacitos distributors

    […]Here are several of the websites we recommend for our visitors[…]

  28. April 22, 2017

    appliance repair inc

    […]The facts mentioned inside the post are a number of the very best readily available […]

  29. April 22, 2017

    home appliance services

    […]Every the moment in a whilst we pick out blogs that we study. Listed below would be the most current web pages that we pick out […]

  30. April 22, 2017

    street fashion in china

    […]please stop by the web-sites we adhere to, such as this 1, as it represents our picks through the web[…]

  31. April 22, 2017

    Oretha Stallard

    […]Sites of interest we have a link to[…]

  32. April 22, 2017

    Kendal Pettengill

    […]Here is an excellent Blog You might Obtain Intriguing that we Encourage You[…]

  33. April 22, 2017

    Melissa Quijada

    […]Sites of interest we’ve a link to[…]

  34. April 23, 2017


    Here is a good Weblog You may Find Interesting that we encourage you to visit.

  35. April 23, 2017

    mc towny

    […]Here are some of the web-sites we advise for our visitors[…]

  36. April 23, 2017

    website translation services

    […]we like to honor several other internet web pages on the internet, even if they aren?t linked to us, by linking to them. Underneath are some webpages worth checking out[…]

  37. April 24, 2017

    buy Akuamma Seeds

    […]check below, are some totally unrelated web sites to ours, nonetheless, they’re most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  38. April 24, 2017


    […]please visit the websites we follow, which includes this one, because it represents our picks through the web[…]

  39. April 24, 2017

    Los Angeles

    […]Here are some of the internet sites we advise for our visitors[…]

  40. April 24, 2017

    g home decor

    […]we came across a cool web page which you might delight in. Take a look should you want[…]

  41. April 24, 2017

    City Permits

    […]we came across a cool internet site that you just might appreciate. Take a look for those who want[…]

  42. April 24, 2017

    superior singing method what do you get

    […]we came across a cool web page that you simply may possibly take pleasure in. Take a look in the event you want[…]

  43. April 25, 2017

    vocal singing lessons

    […]although sites we backlink to below are considerably not associated to ours, we feel they’re essentially worth a go by way of, so possess a look[…]

  44. April 25, 2017

    baking utensils

    […]the time to study or take a look at the material or web pages we’ve linked to below the[…]

  45. April 25, 2017

    green mountain coffee

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a handful of unrelated data, nevertheless seriously really worth taking a appear, whoa did a single learn about Mid East has got much more problerms at the same time […]

  46. April 25, 2017

    Place de marche cosmetique

    […]always a big fan of linking to bloggers that I adore but don?t get lots of link adore from[…]

  47. April 25, 2017

    pandora rings tiara

    […]we came across a cool internet site that you could take pleasure in. Take a search in case you want[…]

Leave a Reply