As the “War on Crime” targeted American cities from the late 1960s onward, Black residents threw punches and Molotov cocktails at police officers, plundered local businesses, and vandalized exploitative institutions. Drawing on new sources, Elizabeth Hinton reveals that these so-called riots were not explosions of criminality but collective acts of rebellion against police brutality and racism.
A leading scholar on policing, Elizabeth Hinton documents the most important lesson from these flash points—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.
Ultimately, Hinton argues that we cannot understand the civil rights moment without coming to terms with the astonishing violence, and hugely expanded policing regime, that followed it.
Taking us from Watts in California in 1965 to the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Hinton’s highly anticipated America on Fire offers an unprecedented framework for understanding our current crisis.
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“This penetrating and incisive account of Black rebellion is based on extensive primary research…[an] illuminating work.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“[A] groundbreaking, deeply researched and profoundly heart-rending account.”
— New York Times Book Review
“More than just a historical book. It is political education.”
— Boston Review
“Drills down into the granular, highlighting the courageous men and women who stood tall in a hail of bullets.”
— O, The Oprah Magazine
“A must-read for all concerned with civil rights and social justice in modern America.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Readers will be struck by the generational echoes of Black Americans’ struggle for justice.”
— Booklist (starred review)
An Oprah Magazine Pick of Best Books of the Month
A New York Times Notable Book of 2021
A Time Magazine Best Book of 2021
A Smithsonian Magazine Pick of Best Books of the Year
America on Fire Listener Reviews
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About Elizabeth Hinton
Elizabeth Hinton is an assistant professor of history and of African and African American studies at Harvard University. Her research focuses on the persistence of poverty and racial inequality in the twenty-century United States.
About Shayna Small
Shayna Small is an actress, singer, and educator based in New York, where she received her BFA in Drama from the Juilliard School. She has worked across a variety of media including theater, film and tv, music and voice-over.