Civil Rights in the "City of Hate:" Grassroots Organizing against Police Brutality in Dallas, Texas
My manuscript connects carceral studies with Black and Brown civil rights historiographies, showing how both African Americans and Mexican Americans, simultaneously and relationally, built liberation movements that centered on the struggle against policing and police violence. Black and Brown activists’ experiences with police violence not only politicized them but also led them into their quests for liberation throughout the twentieth century. In the early decades, African American middle-class civil rights leaders spearheaded voting rights campaigns to hire Black police to the municipal force while Mexican residents sought representation and support from the Mexican consulate when residents complained of abusive policing.
Though their quest to end violent policing followed separate trajectories, Black and Mexican working-class activists found some space to build coalitions in solidarity. However, these coalitions in the early to mid-century failed to flourish as the red-baiting of the postwar era prevailed, forcing Black and Brown organizers to dispel their ties to the radical Left in favor of more moderate movements for desegregation. As the movement entered the post-civil rights era, police violence acted as the uniting force between Black and Brown despite federal and local policing procedures designed to forestall such coalition-building efforts. This coalition later aligned itself with white working-class organizations, forming what Dallas newspapers called the “triumvirate alliance,” in response to rampant police violence in the early 1970s. This triumvirate alliance helped solidify activists’ transition into electoral politics and successfully brought federal oversight to the Dallas Police Department for the first time in the 1980s.