Historian Carl Suddler's New Book Probes Black Youth, Criminal Justice

Historians in the News
tags: books, African American history, historians, criminal justice

Black youth, especially males, have been disproportionately tied to the U.S. justice system far longer than today’s headlines suggest.

Dr. Carl Suddler, an assistant professor of history at Emory University, puts the intersection of race, gender, youth and incarceration under a searing spotlight in his new book, Presumed Criminal: Black Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York.

When the justice system began to become more about punishment than rehabilitation in the 1950s, he writes, criminalized Black youth bore the brunt of the shift as law enforcement began to devote more resources to issues of juvenile delinquency. In New York City, in particular, heightened surveillance of Black neighborhoods and controversial practices such as stop-and-frisk drove up arrest, conviction and incarceration rates of Black males for decades.

Add in historically sensational media coverage of crime – from the Harlem Six to the Central Park Five to Trayvon Martin – the so-called War on Crime and War on Drugs from the late 1960s into a new millennium became, in the eyes of many, a war on Black men.

Legislative policies and police practices at national and local levels helped create what exists today – a carceral state impacting Black and Brown people, especially males, with long-term implications for families, communities and the nation.

“Bridging the historiographical gap between the Great Depression and the War on Crime,” Suddler writes in Presumed Criminal, “I argue that black youths faced a more punitive justice system by the post-war era that restricted their social mobility and categorically branded them as criminal – a stigma they continue to endure.”

Suddler recently talked with Diverse about the book.

Read entire article at Diverse Education

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