America on Fire
A New York Times Notable Book
Best Books of 2021: TIME, Smithsonian
New York Times Book Review * Editors’ Choice
A radical reckoning with the racial inequality of America’s past and present, by one of the country’s leading scholars of policing and mass incarceration
Between 1964 and 1972, the United States endured domestic violence on a scale not seen since the Civil War. During these eight years, Black residents responded to police brutality and systemic racism by throwing punches and Molotov cocktails at police officers, plundering local businesses and vandalizing exploitative institutions. Ever since, Americans have been living in a nation and national culture created, in part, by the extreme violence of this period.
In America on Fire, acclaimed professor Elizabeth Hinton draws on previously untapped sources to unravel this extraordinary history for the first time, arguing that we cannot understand the civil rights struggle without coming to terms with the astonishing violence, and hugely expanded policing regime, that followed it. A leading scholar of policing, Hinton underlines a crucial lesson in the book – that police violence precipitates community violence – and shows how it continues to escape policy makers, who respond by further criminalizing entire groups instead of addressing underlying socioeconomic causes.
Taking us from the uprising in Watts, Los Angeles in 1965 to the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Hinton’s urgent, eye-opening and much-anticipated America on Fire offers an unprecedented framework for understanding the crisis at the country’s heart.
'An indispensable account of the devastating cycle of police violence and community violence in the United States from the 1960s to the 2020s ... Essential to any understanding of the state of the nation, and the way from here.' Jill Lepore, bestselling author of These Truths: A History of the United States 'In this powerful, eye-opening book, Elizabeth Hinton reframes our understanding of the origins of the current struggle for racial justice ... No book could be more timely.' Eric Foner, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Fiery Trial and DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University 'If you want to understand the massive antiracist protests of 2020, put down the navel-gazing books about racial healing and read America on Fire.' Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams 'Long overdue, desperately needed ... reveals the sobering truth that this nation learned precious little and paid a high price indeed for its ignorance.' Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Blood in the Water 'With unparalleled moral clarity and purpose, Hinton has shown, once again, why she is one of the most important historians and thinkers of our time.' Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation 'Revelatory and remarkable, America on Fire is a story of how the people after the Civil Rights Movement made known that they had a right to be free.' Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of Felon 'If the crisis in American justice is ever to be resolved, it is going to take a full-scale reimagining not only of where we are in terms of policing and race but of how we got here. This is a job for historians, and there is no scholar today more insightful about this issue than Elizabeth Hinton.' Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author of Stony the Road
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