Civil Rights in the "City of Hate:" Grassroots Organizing against Police Brutality in Dallas, Texas

Civil Rights in the “City of Hate:” Grassroots Organizing Against Police Brutality in Dallas, 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. In doing so, my work demonstrates that Black and Brown communities fought against various carceral regimes from the beginning and that it was central to the overall movement. Attention to the Sunbelt also expands the boundaries of the carceral state, of which legal scholars and historians have overwhelmingly concentrated on the urban North, Midwest, and California. Similarly, civil rights historians have overlooked the movements that took place in the Sunbelt. In Dallas, as in other Sunbelt cities, the growth policies of New Deal liberalism and the emergence of the Cold War military industrial complex shaped the spatial patterns of the city. These practices ultimately heightened racial segregation and discrimination in all aspects of daily life for communities of color. I bring all these literatures into conversation with one another, illuminating how African Americans and Mexican Americans not only continually contested carceral regimes, but also how they challenged the racist spatial constraints and electoral politics that kept both Black and Brown peoples marginalized.

 

My book draws on more than thirty new oral history interviews as well as archival research in municipal records, newspapers, local and federal police records, televised news footage and transcripts, and manuscript collections from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Black Panther Party, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the Brown Berets. These resources demonstrate how 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 organizers formed numerous civil rights organizations to ensure equitable policing procedures while Mexicans in the Dallas barrios used the Mexican consul as an intermediary between the Mexicana/o community and the Dallas Police Department. By the second half of the twentieth century, the movement against police violence united Black and Brown activists in a shared struggle for police accountability. Activists built a broad coalition of Black, Brown, and white working-class organizations that protested police violence in the 1970s and then transformed their activism into local elected positions of power nearly a decade later.