Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Black Rage in New Orleans: Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Black Rage in New Orleans: Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina

Article excerpt

Black Rage in New Orleans: Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina

AUTHOR: LEONARD N. MOORE

LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY

PRESS, 2010

PRICE: $35.00 HARDCOVER

ISBN-13:9780807135907

In the shadow of America's fight for democracy following WWII, freedom at home came to mean the right to fair police protection for many African American communities. Leonard N. Moore's Black Rage in New Orleans." Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina (2010) examines the history of African American protests to secure equitable treatment and fair police protection from the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) as a civil right in Post-WWII New Orleans. Moore contends that African American communities in the "Crescent City" sustained a six-decade long campaign of opposition to police brutality in a struggle waged principally along class lines. Primarily led by poor and working class African Americans, anti-brutality activists pursued both mass protests tactics and black electoral politics in their struggle for social justice.

In the two decades following the end of WWII, anti-brutality activism in New Orleans mirrored broader historical developments taking place throughout African American communities. During the 1950s and mid-1960s, major developments effecting African American voting rights were the principal catalyst for police reform. Moore demonstrates how--as a consequence of increased African American voting strength in the wake of Smith v. Allright (1944) and Hall v. Nagel (1946), two court rulings that outlawed all-white primaries--civic leaders and law enforcement officials in New Orleans appeared more willing to listen to African American anti-brutality activists. Similarly, the Civil Rights Act of 1965 brought a renewed sense of hope for the promise that black electoral politics might bring concrete police reform. Unfortunately, in a city dominated by special interests, New Orleans' African American middle class at times aligned its concerns with local government officials when seeking political patronage for delivering African American voters in key city-wide elections. The creation of the Community Organization for Urban Politics (COUP), the Southern Organization for United Leadership (SOUL) and the 1969 mayoral election of Moon Landrieu are illustrative of this relationship, and these developments proved cosmetic and wholly ineffective--at best--in resolving the need for comprehensive police reform.

As the passive, non-violent protests of the Civil Rights Movement gave way to the more radical tactics of the Black Power Movement in the late 1960s, so too did anti-brutality activism in New Orleans take on a more visible, highly confrontational and less structured tone. Widespread support by poor and working class African Americans for a more revolutionary approach to acquiring fair police protection was evident, Moore illustrates, in 1970 during the Black Panther Party's two armed confrontations with the NOPD. Thousands of residents from New Orleans' Desire Housing Projects provided material and emotional support to the Panther's efforts to end police repression. …

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