Law

Policing and Oppression Have a Long History

The debate on racism and law enforcement follows a clear line back to the antebellum South.

An 1839 woodcut depicts a slave patrol capturing a fugitive.

Source: Anti-Slavery Almanac/Public domain

In my previous column, I promised to take up the topic of the historical roots of the continuing mistrust between law enforcement and the black community. My intention in setting forth the background is not to impugn the integrity of police officers anywhere. Yet if we don't study the past we'll never understand the present, and the history of policing in America is deeply intertwined with the violence of racial oppression.

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