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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 March 2021
The FDR administration waged a war on crime starting in 1933. I argue that this war on crime had three primary effects. First, it created a ratchet effect whereby expanded institutions did not return to previous levels after the campaign ended. Second, it instilled enduring institutional and racial logics into law enforcement in America. By building a state through a war on crime, these leaders constructed a criminal justice system designed to make war. Moreover, they perpetuated the surveillance of Black leaders and eschewed calls from Black organizations demanding protection from widespread racial violence. Third, these political entrepreneurs induced an issue realignment that defined crime policy around a politics of consensus—a consensus that included every major political bloc but Black Americans, who unsuccesfully called on the federal government to hold local police accountable and address racial inequality. This coalition diffused their methods to states and deployed future wars on crime, and the racial logics cemented in the FDR era set the stage for these future wars to be deployed disproportionately against the Black community.
I would like to thank Vesla Weaver, Stephen Skowronek, David Mayhew, Yale mini-APSA facilitators and participants, and Josh Cayetano for their helpful feedback on various proposals and drafts; Jake Adkins and the librarians at Marquette University, the University of Virginia, and the Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library for their research assistance; Ramon Garibaldo, Gwen Prowse, Morgan Galloway, Danny Hirschel-Burns, Justin Denney, my parents, and the Borden House community for their sharpening support of this project; SAPD's editors and anonymous reviewers for their tremendous feedback and suggestions; and Lara Takasugi Denney for her abundant love and encouragement that made this article a reality.
2. Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933, Archives of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library [hereinafter FDR Archives]; see also Walker, Samuel, A Critical History of Police Reform: The Emergence of Professionalism (Lexington, KY: Lexington Books, 1977), 151Google Scholar, emphasis added.
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11. Frydl, Kathleen J., “Kidnapping and State Development in the United States,” Studies in American Political Development 20, no. 1 (2006): 18–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar. This argument possesses many parallels with what I present here. However, I situate kidnapping as one of many aspects of the war on crime, and I integrate this analysis with significant treatment of race and criminal justice during this period.
12. Daniel Richman and Sarah Seo, “Driving toward Autonomy? The FBI in the Federal System, 1908–1960,” Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-632.
13. Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime.
14. Weaver, “Frontlash.”
15. Exemplary work on racial reform and social movements includes Megan Ming Francis, Robert Mickey, Kimberly Johnson, and Patricia Sullivan; Athan Theoharis is a leading FBI historian who has written numerous books and articles on the development of the FBI, and Samuel Walker has developed similar macro-histories of state and local police agencies, which complements the political-historical work done by Marie Gottschalk; Stephen Skowronek, Karren Orren, Ira Katznelson, Paul Frymer, and Desmond King have shaped the underlying theories of American political development; historians such as Khalil Muhammad and Elizabeth Hinton have also profoundly shaped this work.
16. For wonderful summaries of the development of race and the carceral state, see Hinton, Elizabeth and Cook, DeAnza, “The Mass Criminalization of Black Americans: A Historical Overview,” Annual Review of Criminology 4 (2020): 1–26Google Scholar. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-criminol-060520-033306; Heather Ann Thompson, “The Racial History of Criminal Justice in America,” Du Bois Review 16:1 (2019): 221–41. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1742058X19000183.
17. Sally Hadden, Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).
18. For instance, an Alabama statute mandated that two-thirds of jurors had to be slaveholders. Stuntz, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, 92.
19. See J. Michael Martinez, Coming for to Carry Me Home: Race in America from Abolitionism to Jim Crow (New York: Roman & Littlefield, 2012).
20. U.S. Const. amend. XIII, §1.
21. W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2013 ); Matthew J. Mancini, One Dies, Get Another: Convict Leasing in the American South, 1866–1928 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996); Alex Lichtenstein, Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of Convict Labor in the New South (New York: Verso, 1996); Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (New York: Anchor Books, 2009); Talitha LeFlouria, Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016); Mary Ellen Curtin, Black Prisoners and Their World, Alabama, 1865–1900 (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2000).
22. Adam Malka, Men of Mobtown: Policing Baltimore in the Age of Slavery and Emancipation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018).
23. See Sarah Haley, No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016).
24. Monica Muñoz Martinez, The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018), 6–7; see also Robert Perkinson, Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010). Perkinson centers Texas in a narrative of the development of race and American criminal justice.
25. See Sidney Harring, Policing a Class Society: The Experience of American Cities, 1865–1915 (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017); Muhammad, Khalil Gibran, “Where Did All the White Criminals Go? Reconfiguring Race and Crime on the Road to Mass Incarceration,” Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 13 (2011): 72–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Eric Henry Monkkonen, Police in Urban America, 1880–1920 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981).
26. Robert Fogelson, Big-City Police (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977), 12. Quoted by Simon Balto, Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), 93.
27. Balto, Occupied Territory, 24. “Even before the Great Migration, police and public policies had specifically channeled vice to, and contained it in, black neighborhoods—knowing that they couldn't eliminate it altogether but wanting to keep it out of white neighborhoods.”
28. Balto, Occupied Territory, 29. Balto's book vividly illustrates the development of the Chicago police department in this era.
29. Kelly Lytle Hernandez, “Hobos in Heaven: Race, Incarceration, and the Rise of Los Angeles, 1880–1910,” Pacific Historical Review 93, no. 3 (2014): 413.
30. Ibid., 446; see also Edward Escobar, Race, Police and the Making of a Political Identity: Mexican Americans and the Los Angeles Police Department, 1900–1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).
31. See Kali Gross, Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence, and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880–1910 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006); Cheryl Hicks, Talk with You Like a Woman: Urban Reform, Criminal Justice, and African American Women in New York, 1890–1935 (Chapel Hill: North Carolina University Press 2010); and Khalil Gibran Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010); Simon Balto, “‘Occupied Territory’: Police Repression and Black Resistance in Postwar Milwaukee, 1950–1968,” The Journal of African American History 98, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 229–52.
32. U.S. Const. amend. XIV, §1.
33. Stuntz, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, 108. See also Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, The FBI: A History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007).
34. See Stuntz, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, 113; Charles Lane, The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction (New York: Henry Holt, 2008).
35. United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1875).
36. For example, in 1924, the U.S. Border Patrol was formed, and it powerfully established ideas and practices of immigration enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border. See Kelly Lytle Hernandez, Migra! A History of the U. S. Border Patrol (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010). For more on antecedents to the Border Patrol and other immigration enforcement, see Katherine Benton-Cohen, Inventing the Immigration Problem: The Dillingham Commission and Its Legacy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).
37. Peter Andreas, Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013).
38. Norman Ansley, “The United States Secret Service. An Administrative History,” The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science 47, no. 1 (1956): 93–109.
39. See Jeffreys-Jones, The FBI, 5–6. See also Willard M. Oliver, The Birth of the FBI: Teddy Roosevelt, the Secret Service, and the Fight over America's Premier Law Enforcement Agency (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).
40. For the White Slave Traffic Act, see Jeffreys-Jones, The FBI, 6. It's worth noting the White Slave Traffic Act was a baldly racist act that operated under the stereotype of White women in fear of Black men. For a definitive look of extradition, see Katherine Unterman, Uncle Sam's Policeman: The Pursuit of Fugitives across Borders (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015). See pages 183–209 in particular for the transition of extradition to the FBI, which had previously been handled by private organizations. For another work on the FBI's activity between the wars, see David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (New York: Doubleday, 2017).
41. Lisa McGirr, The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State (New York: W.W. Norton).
42. Samuel Walker, Popular Justice: A History of American Criminal Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 154–57; Potter, War on Crime; McGirr, The War on Alcohol.
43. Stephen Skowronek, The Politics Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to Bill Clinton (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1993), 36.
44. McGirr, The War on Alcohol, 72.
45. Quoted by “Another Commission, Out of Commission,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 22, 1931.
46. Michael A. Lerner, Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).
47. Walker, Popular Justice, 157.
48. McGirr, The War on Alcohol, 55.
49. See also Hortense Powdermaker, After Freedom: A Cultural Study in the Deep South (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993); Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (New York: Harper, 1944); Allison Davis, Burleigh B. Gardner, and Mary R. Gardner, Deep South: A Social Anthropological Study of Caste and Class (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1941).
50. Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness, 7.
52. Walter White, Crisis, April 1932, 39; quoted by ibid., 272.
53. Walker, Popular Justice, 155.
55. Marilynn S. Johnson, Street Justice: A History of Police Violence in New York City (Boston: Beacon, 2003). See also Silvan Niedermeier, The Color of the Third Degree: Racism, Police Torture, and Civil Rights in the American South, 1930–1955, trans. by Paul Cohen (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2019).
56. Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness.
57. Amy Louise Wood, Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890–1940, New Directions in Southern Studies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), 3.
58. See also Michael J. Pfeifer, Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874–1947 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004); Margaret Vandiver, Lethal Punishment: Lynchings and Legal Executions in the South (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006).
59. Denounces Lynching of Innocent Negroes; Southern Commission Finds 2 of 21 Killed in 1930 Guiltless, 11 ‘Probably So.’ Official Laxity Scored Failure to Check Mobs and Small Percentage of Indictments Are Pointed Out,” New York Times, November 10, 1931.
60. Megan Ming Francis, Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014). See also Megan Ming Francis, “The Strange Fruit of American Political Development,” Politics, Groups, and Identities, 6:1 (2018), 128–37.
61. Weiss, Farewell to the Party of Lincoln.
62. Joseph F. Spillane and David B. Wolcott, A History of Modern American Criminal Justice (Los Angeles: Sage, 2012).
63. U.S. Department of Transportation, State Motor Vehicle Registrations, by Years, 1900–1995. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/summary95/mv200.pdf. Accessed February 2021.
64. For more on the importance of the car in transforming American life, see Peter Ling, America and the Automobile: Technology, Reform and Social Change (New York: Manchester University Press, 1990); Jane Holtz Kay, Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America, and How We Can Take It Back (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997); Sarah Seo, Policing the Open Road (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019). In 1900, automobiles accounted for roughly 1 percent of total horsepower in the United States; by 1930, they accounted for 85 percent of the nation's horsepower. Douglas Rae, City: Urbanism and Its End (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 228. Rae gathered the raw data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
65. Bryan Burrough, Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34 (New York: Penguin Books, 2005); Potter, War on Crime.
66. Senator Edward Copeland said that “in this day of hard-surfaced roads, high-powered automobiles, and airplanes, and with the aid of the telegraph and the telephone and the radio, there are few crimes of organized groups which are not interstate in nature” (Congressional Record, 73rd Congress, January 11, 1934, 452).
67. “The war on alcohol was over. The expansion of state authority that the war had engendered, however, did not disappear; it merely lurched forward in new directions.” McGirr, The War on Alcohol, 246. This is partially true: State authority did grow after prohibition, but it was not automatic. It required a new movement that retooled the police state.
68. Local police had been developing for quite some time in some of these directions, and I do not suggest that the federal government acted alone or created a new system of policing ex nihilo. But these developments had not occurred as they would in the 1930s, which both systematized and legitimized this model of policing.
69. Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime; Potter, War on Crime; Jonathan Simon, Governing Through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Gottschalk, The Prison and the Gallows.
70. Tilly, Coercion, Capital and European States, 67.
72. Jeffrey Herbst, States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014).
73. See, for example, Cameron G. Thies, “Rivalry and State Building in Latin America,” American Journal of Political Science 49, no. 3 (2005): 451–65; Mark Dincecco and Yuhua Wang, “Violent Conflict and Political Development over the Long Run: China versus Europe,” Annual Review of Political Science, 2017, 1–39; Lisa Blaydes and Christopher Paik, “The Impact of Holy Land Crusades on State Formation: War Mobilization, Trade Integration, and Political Development in Medieval Europe,” International Organization 70, no. 3 (2016): 551–86; Debin Ma, “State Capacity and Great Divergence, the Case of Qing China (1644–1911),” Eurasian Geography and Economics 54, no. 5–6 (2013): 484–99.
74. See also Philip A. Klinkner and Rogers M. Smith, The Unsteady March: The Rise and Decline of Racial Equality in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).
75. David R Mayhew, “Wars and American Politics,” Perspectives on Politics 3, no. 3 (2005): 473–74.
76. It did so through “centralization of authority,” “bureaucratic professionalization,” and “new patterns of interest intermediation.” Marc Allen Eisner, From Warfare State to Welfare State: World War I, Compensatory State-Building, and the Limits of the Modern Order (University Park: The Pennsylvania University Press, 2000), 35–38.
77. Robert P. Saldin, War, the American State, and Politics Since 1898 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 9.
78. James Sparrow, Warfare State: World War II Americans and the Age of Big Government (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).
79. Adam Berinksy, In Time of War: Understanding American Public Opinion from World War II to Iraq (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).
80. “At a national scale, the division between armies (generally specialized in combatting other armed forces) and police forces (generally specialized in the control of unarmed or lightly-armed individuals and small groups) only became general quite late—in most countries, during the nineteenth century.” Tilly, Coercion, Capital and European States, 56.
81. Max Weber, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, ed. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich (New York: Bedminster Press, 1968). Per Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime, 65, “Senate Judiciary Committee chair Roman Hruska told Attorney General Katzenbach, ‘For some time, it has been my feeling that the task of law enforcement agencies is really not much different from military forces; namely, to deter crime before it occurs, just as our military objective is deterrence of aggression.’”
82. “War refers to publicly legitimized and organized offensive and/or defensive deadly violence between polities.” Ronald Cohen, “Warfare and State Formation,” in Warfare, Culture, and Environment, ed. R. Brian Ferguson (Orlando, FL: Academic Press), 330.
83. See Nikhil Pal Singh, Race and America's Long War (Berkeley: University of California, 2019), 8; Aziz Huq and Christopher Muller, “The War on Crime as Precursor to the War on Terror,” International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice 36, no. 4 (2008): 215–29; James Forman Jr., “Exporting Harshness: How the War on Crime Helped Make the War on Terror Possible,” NYU Review of Law and Social Change 33 (2009): 331–74.
84. I do not intend to imply that wars on crime function precisely like interstate wars. Certain features of interstate wars are peculiar and unique, and they do not apply in the present case. Most importantly, interstate wars are, by definition, between polities, while wars on crime involve violent enforcement within a polity. In that sense, the war on crime still operates as a metaphor. But the metaphorical war shares important similarities with actual wars. For Cohen, wars on crime meet two of the three primary characteristics of war (they involve public legitimation and use of deadly violence, but not between polities).
85. See John L. Campbell, “The State and Fiscal Sociology?” Annual Review of Sociology 19 (1993):163–85; Diana Rodríguez-Franco, “Internal Wars, Taxation, and State Building,” American Sociological Review 81, no. 1 (February 2016): 190–213.
86. Edgar Kiser and April Linton, “Determinants of the Growth of the State: War and Taxation in Early Modern France and England,” Social Forces 80, no. 2 (2001): 414.
87. Tilly, Coercion, Capital and European States, 76.
88. Robert Alford and Roger Friedland, Powers of Theory: Capitalism, the State, and Democracy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 11.
89. Tilly, Coercion, Capital and European States.
90. See Mayhew, “Wars and American Politics”; Eisner, From Warfare State to Welfare State; Sparrow, Warfare State. Klinkler and Smith (The Unsteady March, 3–4) argue that wars provide unique contexts for race and civil rights. They show how wars have been crucial for the “unsteady march” toward racial justice. In particular, “[racial] progress has come only
1. in the wake of a large-scale war requiring extensive economic and military mobilization of African Americans for success;
2. when the nature of America's enemies has prompted American leaders to justify such wars and their attendant sacrifices by emphasizing the nation's inclusive, egalitarian, and democratic traditions; and
3. when the nation has possessed domestic political protest movements willing and able to bring pressure upon national leaders to live up to the justificatory rhetoric by instituting domestic reforms.”
Importantly for our purposes, the war on crime matches the criteria for how wars propel policy change, but it does not match two of these three criteria for racial equality. The war on crime did not require extensive economic or military mobilization of African Americans, and law enforcement was able to avoid language of inclusiveness and egalitarianism.
91. William Howell, Saul Jackman, and Jon Rogowski, The Wartime President: Executive Influence and the Nationalizing Politics of Threat (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), xiii.
93. See Geoffrey S. Smith, “Isolationism, the Devil, and the Advent of the Second World War: Variation on a Theme,” The International History Review 4, no. 1 (1982): 55–89.
94. Kiser and Linton, “Determinants of the Growth of the State,” 411–48; David Mitchell, “Why Is There a Ratchet Effect? Evidence from Civil War Income Taxes,” in Public Choice Analyses of American Economic History, ed. J. Hall and M. Witcher M. (New York: Springer, 2018), 69–86.
95. Marie Gottschalk also highlights the significance of this period and describes some of the information described here: See Gottschalk, The Prison and the Gallows, 65–76.
96. Burrough, Public Enemies, 58. For the sake of consistency, hereinafter I refer to the FBI regardless of whether it was before or after the renaming.
97. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Records, Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University [hereinafter Marquette FBI Records], series 50, box 1.
98. Cummings consistently and fiercely defended Roosevelt. For instance, during the 1932 primary, he responded to a critical public letter with a defense containing the following words: “If it is to be a government of privilege, an overlordship of special interests, in short, the kind of government we have had continuously since 1921, then, of course, Franklin D. Roosevelt is not the man. If we desire a leadership which, recognizing all groups of society, full realizes that our policies must be drawn on a much broader scale then heretofore, and that a program must be developed which will take sympathetic cognizance of the great producing masses of America, in the factories and upon the farms, then Governor Roosevelt is just the man for the situation” (Papers of Homer Stille Cummings, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia [hereinafter Homer Cummings Papers], box 63).
99. Homer Cummings Papers, box 65.
100. He also seemed constitutionally averse to the Oxford comma and ended every letter “Faithfully Yours.”
101. Homer Cummings Papers, box 62. Quoting the language used in a resolution adopted by the American Legion.
102. Homer Cummings Papers, box 66, folder 1. He also says here, “Time has served, however, to demonstrate that a large and constantly increasing percentage of our people are fundamentally opposed to the Eighteenth Amendment and are resentful of its limitations. It lacks the public approval essential to its successful operation.”
103. Marquette FBI Records, series 29, box 1, January 10, 1934.
104. See Tom R. Tyler, Why People Obey the Law (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006).
105. “The country's first national police force had been a disaster, and yet the principle of federal policing survived” (Potter, War on Crime, 228).
106. Homer Cummings Papers, box 82.
107. Marquette FBI Records, series 29, box 1, November 22, 1933. He said in the same address: “The efforts of the Federal Government to reduce unemployment through the National Recovery Act, the Public Works Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and allied measures, have a collateral and helpful effect in the matter of crime prevention. The public, in supporting these measures, not only is contributing to economic recovery, but is also placing a further limitation upon crime conditions” (Marquette FBI Records, series 29, box 1, November 22, 1933).
108. In 1935, he laid out his social vision for youth in a speech entitled “The Problem of Youth”: “The formulation of a constructive, forward-looking program for liberating, encouraging and directing the energies of youth should evoke our best thought. With such a program there would be developed in the next generation a leadership capable of solving its own economic, social and political problems, including those of crime and maladjustment” (Homer Cummings Papers, box 213).
109. Marquette FBI Records, series 29, box 1, November 22, 1933.
110. See Adolph Reed Jr., “The New Deal Wasn't Intrinsically Racist,” The New Republic, November 26, 2019. Reed points out ways in which the social programs of the New Deal provided opportunities for Black Americans. As others have shown, he also acknowledges that they were often denied provision or intentionally excluded.
111. “100,000 in the Man Hunt,” New York Times, March 3, 1932.
112. Jeffreys-Jones, The FBI, 88; Burrough, Public Enemies.
113. See Stuntz, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice.
114. For a wonderful in-depth treatment of kidnapping and the role of this case, see Frydl, “Kidnapping and State Development in the United States.”
115. Marquette FBI Records, series 29, box 1, November 22, 1933.
116. Marquette FBI Records, series 73, box 3, July 1, 1933.
117. Elliott J. Gorn, Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year That Made America's Public Enemy Number One (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2009), xvi. Hoover famously resented that Melvin Purvis could take credit for the killing of Dillinger, and he nursed this grudge for the rest of his life.
118. The New York Times announced in May 1934: “Bandit Pair Are Riddled with Bullets as Car Speeds at 85 Miles an Hour,” New York Times, May 19, 1934.
119. He designated Assistant Attorney General Joseph Keenan to represent the Department of Justice in working with Congress to formulate a response to the crime problem. He worked closely with Edward Copeland, who led the Senate committee on the subject. Marquette FBI Records, September 11, 1933.
120. Homer Cummings Papers, box 122.
121. FDR Archives, Justice Department, 1933–1937, 13, emphasis added.
123. Crime Control Acts, chs. 299–304, 48 Stat. 780-83. Federal officers were not given sanctioned to carry weapons prior to this, and they had little ability to arrest suspects. This law changed that. From this point on, federal agents would carry weapons and have much more ability to apprehend subjects.
124. Homer Cummings Papers, box 122.
125. Homer Cummings Papers, box 122. On a related note, FDR enlisted Cummings in his court-reorganization schemes.
126. An example of a general law enforcement bill or speech would be one related to the attorney general's membership status in police organizations.
127. Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1934: Hearing before the Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations, 72nd Congress, 2nd Sess., December 31, 1933.
128. These figures come from the House appropriations hearings on Justice Department budgets. Each figure was taken from the year after the budget was set, in which they described how much the budget was for the previous year and how many people were currently hired. See Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1931: Hearing Before the Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations in Charge of Departments of State, Justice, Commerce, and Labor Appropriation Bill for 1931, 71st Congress, 2nd Sess.; Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1934: Hearing before the Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations in Charge of Departments of State, Justice, Commerce, and Labor Appropriation Bill, 77nd Congress, 2nd Sess., December 31, 1933; Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1937: Hearing Before the Subcommittee in Charge of Departments of State, Justice, Commerce, and Labor Appropriation Bill for 1937, 74th Congress, First Sess., December 31, 1936; Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1938: Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, 75th Congress, First Sess., December 31, 1937.
129. Each year, Hoover reviewed these figures in the House appropriations hearings on the FBI budget.
130. See Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1941: Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, 76th Congress, First Sess., on the Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1941, December 31, 1940; Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1942: Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, 77th Congress, First Sess., on the Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1942, December 31, 1941.
131. Robert Jackall, Moral Mazes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 112.
132. See Patricia Thornton, Markets from Culture: Institutional Logics and Organizational Decisions in Higher Education Publishing (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004); Paul DiMaggio, “Interest and Agency in Institutional Theory,” in Institutional Patterns and Organizations: Culture and Environment, ed. Lynne G. Zucker (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1988), 3–32; Patricia Thornton and William Ocasio, “Institutional Logics,” in The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism, ed. Royston Greenwood, Christine Oliver, Thomas Lawrence, and Renate Meyer (London: Sage, 2017), 99–129.
133. Cohen, “Warfare and State Formation,” 338.
134. Alford and Friedland, Powers of Theory, 11.
135. Pierson, “Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics.”
137. Marquette FBI Records series 73, box 3, May 22, 1934. See also a memo where Hoover describes machine guns and other weapons he would be sending to all the field offices (Marquette FBI Records series 73, box 3, July 1, 1933).
138. Marquette FBI Records series 73, box 3, May 22, 1934.
139. Walker, A Critical History of Police Reform, 160–61.
141. For more on Alcatraz, see David Ward, Alcatraz: The Gangster Years (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009). See chapter 1 in particular for Ward's account of the war on crime and how it relates to the formation of Alcatraz.
142. “New Alcatraz is Inspected by Cummings: Island Prison Features Shown Attorney General Who Praises Warden Johnston for Work,” San Francisco Examiner, August 19, 1934. Article found in Marquette FBI Records, series 29, box 1, August 17, 1934.
143. Cummings said that “the Department's investigative division is also aiding local law enforcement agencies by maintaining what I regard as the largest and most valuable collection of fingerprints in the world, now numbering almost 4,000,000; and by offering its facilities to law enforcement agencies.”
144. Marquette FBI Records, series 29, box 1, November 22, 1933.
146. See Walker, A Critical History of Police Reform.
147. This is how Skowronek defines the “procedural dimension” of the state. See Skowronek, Building a New American State, 24.
148. This argument will be expanded later on in the section on the diffusion to the states.
149. This also mirrors Skowronek's “intellectual dimension” of the state. Skowronek, Building a New American State, 31.
151. See Potter, War on Crime.
152. Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1939: Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, on the Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1939.
153. Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1943: Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, 77th Congress, 2nd Sess., on the Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1943, 371. See also Jeffreys-Jones, The FBI.
154. Calculated from data found in Athan Theoharis, ed., The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide (Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, 1999), 196.
155. Marquette FBI Records, series 73, box 3, May 22, 1934.
156. He told Congress in 1937, “Affirmative steps to prevent the growing child from becoming an offender against the law constitute a far greater benefit to the individual, than punishment, no matter how sure, swift, and severe, after the crime is committed” (FDR Archives, Homer Cummings, 1938–1944, part 1).
157. “Federal Law and the Juvenile Delinquent,” Homer Cummings Papers, box 215.
158. Carl Suddler, “Young Forever: The Criminalization of Urban Youth, 1939–1964,” Indiana University Dissertation, 2015; Carl Suddler, Presumed Criminal: Black Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York (New York: New York University Press, 2019).
159. Richard Gid Powers, G-Men: Hoover's FBI in American Popular Culture. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983), 44.
160. Washington D.C. Sunday Star, October 29, 1933.
161. Suddler, Presumed Criminal, 75.
162. John Hagan, Who Are the Criminals? The Politics of Crime Policy from the Age of Roosevelt to the Age of Reagan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010).
163. Beverly Gage, “Deep Throat, Watergate, and the Bureaucratic Politics of the FBI,” Journal of Policy History 24, no. 2 (2012): 157–83.
164. For other examples of this concept being used, see Vincent N. Pham, “Our Foreign President Barack Obama: The Racial Logics of Birther Discourses,” Journal of International and Intercultural Communication 8, no. 2 (2015): 86–107; Matthew W. Hughey, “Whither Whiteness? The Racial Logics of the Kerner Report and Modern White Space,” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 4, no. 6 (2018): 73–98.
165. Racial logics mirror Desmond King and Rogers Smith's concept of “racial orders.” Racial logics are not laws specifically geared towards race, but underlying ideas, values, norms, and assumptions that orient how institutions act. See Desmond King and Rogers M. Smith, “Racial Orders in American Political Development,” The American Political Science Review 99, no. 1 (2005): 75–92.
166. Weiss, Farewell to the Party of Lincoln, 119.
167. Smith, FDR, 400–401.
168. FDR Archives, Louis Howe Papers, Secretary to the President, 1933–1936, box 37. This will be discussed later in the following section. This was particularly true in 1934. See discussion on section on coalition building.
169. James McGovern and Walter Howard, “Private Justice and National Concern: The Lynching of Claude Neal,” The Historian 43, no. 4 (1981): 546–59.
170. Some claim that this transportation did not violate the Lindbergh Law, because there was no ransom involved. However, as Vivien Miller points out, “The absence of a ransom demand supposedly explained Department of Justice inaction, but as several scholars have pointed out—and as National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) executive director Walter White reminded Attorney General Cummings—five months before Neal's murder, Congress had amended the kidnapping laws to provide punishment where victims were ‘held for ransom or reward or otherwise’” (850). Vivien Miller, “Family Tragedy and FBI Triumph in the South: The 1938 Kidnapping and Murder of James Bailey ‘Skeegie’ Cash Jr,” Journal of Southern History 79, no. 4 (2013): 841–78. See also Homer Cummings Papers, box 122, for the description of the law that allowed for their intervention.
171. See FDR Archives, OF 93, box 7 for letter from Cummings to FDR urging him not to take action on lynching in 1934. See also Weiss, Farewell to the Party of Lincoln. See the discussion in the section on coalition building for more on this.
172. Weiss, Farewell to the Party of Lincoln, 116.
173. See Dan T. Carter, Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979).
174. Stuntz, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, 202–203.
176. Weiss, Farewell to the Party of Lincoln, 36.
177. Alex Goodall, Loyalty and Liberty: American Countersubversion from World War I to the McCarthy Era (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013); Athan G. Theoharis, The FBI & American Democracy: A Brief Critical History (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004); Tim Weiner, Enemies: A History of the FBI (New York: Random House, 2012); Theodore Kornweibel, Seeing Red: Federal Campaigns against Black Militancy, 1919–1925, Blacks in the Diaspora (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998); Kenneth O'Reilly, Black Americans: The FBI Files, ed. David Gallen (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1994); Mark Ellis, Race, War, and Surveillance: African Americans and the United States Government during World War I (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001).
178. “Radicalism and Sedition among the Negroes, As Reflected in Their Publications: From the Report of the Department of Justice,” New York Times, November 23, 1919.
179. Quoted in David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, 1919–1963: The Fight for Equality and the American Century (New York: Henry Holt, 2000), 6; Mark Ellis, “J. Edgar Hoover and the ‘Red Summer’ of 1919,” Journal of American Studies 28, no. 1 (1994): 39–59. As Lewis describes, James Byrnes was the congressman who adamantly encouraged Hoover and the Bureau of Investigation to surveil Black leaders. As Mark Ellis reports, he said the Southern Black man “is happy and contented and will remain so if the propagandist of the I.W.W., the Bolsheviki of Russia, and the misguided theorist of other sections of this country will let him alone.” Byrnes even had some of Du Bois's words from The Crisis entered into the Congressional Record, prompting Du Bois to thank him facetiously for the extra readership. He added, though, that Byrnes and others were guilty of “encouraging for fifty years the lynching of 4,000 Negroes, the disenfranchisement of a million and a half voters, the enforced ignorance of three million human beings and the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars in wages.” FDR would go on to appoint Byrnes to the Supreme Court.
180. William J. Maxwell, F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), 5.
181. Kenneth O'Reilly, Racial Matters: The FBI's Secret File on Black America, 1960–1972 (New York: Free Press, 1989).
182. J. Edgar Hoover, Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism in America and How to Fight It (New York: Pocket Books, 1953).
183. Marquette FBI Records, series 12, box 1.
185. Homer Cummings Papers, box 114.
186. Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1941: Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, 76th Congress, 3rd Sess., on the Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1941, 475–83.
188. Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1943: Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, 77th Congress, 2nd Sess., on the Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1943, 369–74.
189. Ibid., 369–70. See also William M. Simpson, “A Tale Untold? The Alexandria, Louisiana, Lee Street Riot (January 10, 1942),” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 35, no. 2 (1994): 133–49; Richard M. Dalfiume, Desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces: Fighting on Two Fronts: 1939–1953 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1969); Daniel Kryder, Divided Arsenal: Race and the American State During World War II (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
190. House Committee Hearings for Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1943, 369.
191. Louisiana Weekly, January 17, 1942. See also Simpson, “A Tale Untold?” 139. Omitted letters original.
192. House Committee Hearings for Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1943, 370.
196. Karl Stefan, a Republican from Nebraska, then questioned why a government employee was spending his time testifying before congress on behalf of the Black community. Stefan then ended the hearing with a defiant rebuttal, “Mr. Hoover told us that race, color or creed did not make any difference.” Ibid., 373–74.
197. See Francis, Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State.
198. Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness, 13.
201. Fortune Magazine, Roper Fortune No. 9: Roosevelt Balance Sheet/Tariffs/Negroes/Sex/General, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, 1939, data set.
202. Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness.
203. See W. Marvin Dulaney, Black Police in America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).
204. Potter, War on Crime, 4.
205. Homer Cummings Papers, box 212.
206. Many of these newspaper clippings were kept in FBI files. See Marquette FBI Records, “U.S. Agents Let All Know They Mean Business: Dillinger's Body is Evidence Officers Are Out to ‘Get Their Man’,” Kansas City Journal-Post, July 23, 1934; “New Crime War Meet, Plan of Cummings,” Los Angeles Herald-Express, August 17, 1934; “U.S. Aid Soon to Set Parley on Problem: Attorney General Hopes to Establish Institute for Aiding Police in Enforcing Law,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 18, 1934; “Alcatraz Is Ready for Worst Humans: Prison for Desperate Criminals Completed: Mr. Cummings Pleased: Federal Bastile on Island Fully Equipped with Most Modern Appliances,” Oregonian, August 19, 1934. See also “Cummings Tells Anti-Crime Plans,” New York Times, May 13, 1934.
207. “Dillinger Just Crime Symbol, Says Cummings: Indiana Thug Merely One of Hundreds Sought by U.S.: New Deal vs. Evil: Endless Trail of Law Enforcement Charted in Talk Here,” Kansas City Journal-Post, July 24, 1934.
208. See Potter, War on Crime; Matthew Cecil, Branding Hoover's FBI: How the Boss's PR Men Sold the Bureau to America (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016). This can be seen in how gangsters were portrayed in film before and after the war on crime. The film industry shifted—largely under government pressure—to move from more positive portrayals of gangsters to valorizing the FBI in pursuit of them. See Ruth Vasey, “Let ’Em Have It,” in The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film, ed C. Lucia, R. Grundmann, and A. Simon (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 123.
209. Cecil, Branding Hoover's FBI.
210. Ibid.; Matthew Cecil, “‘Monotonous Tale’: Legitimacy, Public Relations, and the Shooting of a Public Enemy,” Journal of Communication Inquiry 28, no. 2 (April 2004): 157–70, doi:10.1177/0196859903261796. Cecil describes how the FBI shot a “public enemy” in the back in 1939 while he ran, and they used a PR campaign and revised descriptions to sell the shooting to the public.
211. This came after he described some of his broader agenda. Franklin Delano Roosevelt speech in Proceedings of the Attorney General's Conference on Crime (Washington, DC: Department of Justice, 1934), 17.
212. J. Edgar Hoover speech in Proceedings of the Attorney General's Conference on Crime (Washington, DC: Department of Justice, 1934), 27.
213. Homer Cummings Papers, box 69.
214. Carpenter, The Forging of Bureaucratic Autonomy: Reputations, Networks, and Policy Innovation in Executive Agencies, 1862–1928.
215. For another important work on the relationship between Black Americans and the Democratic Party, see Paul Frymer, Uneasy Alliance: Race and Party Competition in America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011).
216. Homer Cummings Papers, box 89. I created a data set with each member of congress listed as a leader on Cummings's crime bills, and I tallied their party affiliation, region, and how they voted on important antilynching measures.
217. Congressional Record, 73rd Congress, 2nd Sess., 1934, 78.
218. As Jeffrey Jenkins, Justin Peck, and Vesla Weaver demonstrate, these votes were moments in the campaigns against lynching in which the debates came to a head. Jeffery A. Jenkins, Justin Peck, and Vesla M. Weaver, “Between Reconstructions: Congressional Action on Civil Rights, 1891–1940,” Studies in American Political Development 24, no. 1 (2010): 57–89; see also Carol Nackenoff and Julie Novkov, eds., Statebuilding from the Margins: Between Reconstruction and the New Deal (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014).
219. Data from these four votes came from the following sources: Congressional Record, 73rd Congress, 2nd Sess., 1934, 6547–6548 (for the Senate vote to adjourn on April 26, 1935); Congressional Record, 73rd Congress, 2nd Sess., 1934, 6687 (for the Senate vote to adjourn on May 1, 1935); “To Consider H.R. 2251, a Bill Assuring to Persons within the Jurisdiction of Every State the Equal Protection of the Laws, and Punishing the Crime of Lynching,” www.GovTrack.us, April 7, 1937, https://www.GovTrack.us/congress/votes/75-1/h20 (for House vote to pass antilynching bill on April 7, 1937); “To Pass H.R. 1507, an Anti-Lynching Bill,” www.GovTrack.us, April 15, 1937, https://www.GovTrack.us/congress/votes/75-1/h27 (for House vote to pass antilynching bill on April 15, 1937).
220. Congressional Record, 74th Congress, 1st Sess., 1935, 79, 6537–6546. In this sequence, Byrnes and Black lead an extended exchange in opposition to the antilynching bill, and it was then suggested that the Senate adjourn and stop discussion of the bill.
221. Congressional Record, 74th Congress, 1st Sess., 1935, 79, 6295.
222. Hugo Black, Congressional Record, 74th Congress, 1st Sess., 1935, 79, 6520. He said, “After the war was fought the State of Alabama, along with other States in the South, had a baptism of blood. It was subjected to the cruel and grueling punishment inflicted by reason of the tenacity and ruthlessness of a man who took the position that the Southern States were conquered provinces.… It took a great number of years, however, for them to recognize the fact which political philosophers had been expounding throughout the ages—that even though a province should be conquered, a wise conqueror left its local habits, customs, and manners untouched. We all know the history of that period; and I mention it only because the bill under discussion to-day is a lineal descendant of the type of thought that placed the heel of the military oppressor upon the people until they could tolerate it no longer.” Claude Bowers popularized this view of Reconstruction in his book The Tragic Era, which drew on a stream of scholarship known as the Dunning school. It has since been discredited by historians. See Eric Foner, “Reconstruction Revisited,” Reviews in American History 10, no. 4 (1982): 82–100.
223. Jenkins et al., “Between Reconstructions,” 79–80.
224. I do not argue that FDR's longstanding aversion to supporting antilynching legislation stemmed from his crime policy. It's clear he was often committed to his larger economic agenda, which, in his view, required the Southern wing of his party. But in the spring of 1934, his economic bills were not on the Congress floor, and in this particular case, there was a perceived threat to the most significant bill that would be on the Congress floor: Cummings's anticrime bills. The antilynching bills would get to the floor in future sessions, but it seems clear that the Justice Department did not want to risk them even getting that far when they would be put up at the same time as their treasured anticrime bills.
225. FDR Archives, Louis Howe Papers, Secretary to the President, 1933–1936, box 37, 11. It's unclear if FDR wrote the memo or if it was written by Howe.
226. FDR Archives, OF 93, box 7, 1.
227. In the following year, with the crime bills already signed into law, the lynching bill came to the congressional floor, and Southern Democrats still offered the same defense of states’ rights, no longer bound by the need to be for and against federal authority at the same time. Hugo Black—a crime policy entrepreneur—said, “That is not a sentiment of a day; it is a sentiment of generations. Even before the War between the States was fought, Alabama was one of the States which followed the Jeffersonian idea that the courts of the State, not the courts of the Federal Government, should be trusted to enforce the laws with reference to the habits and customs within the State” (Congressional Record, 74th Congress, 1st Sess., 1935, 79, 6521); see also George Rable, “The South and the Politics of Antilynching Legislation, 1920–1940,” The Journal of Southern History 51, no. 2 (1985): 201–20.
228. See the above discussion on the Claude Neal kidnapping and lynching.
229. No roll call exists in the govtrack.us database. Moreover, the Congressional Record does not provide any roll call vote for the crime bills. Marie Gottschalk also note the absence of any vote on this important bill: Gottschalk, The Prison and the Gallows, 67.
230. Congressional Record, 73rd Congress, 2nd Sess., 1934, 78, 8261, 8322, 8653.
231. Homer Cummings Papers, box 89.
232. “While the Federal Government is meeting the challenge of criminal gangs, it is silent on an equal menace to law, the lynch mob. On December 10 Attorney General is calling a national conference on crime. He has been asked whether he will put the before this conference the lynching problem, whether he will ask support for the Costigan-Wagner Federal antilynching bill. He has not replied” (Columba [S.C.] Record, December 4, 1934, quoted by Congressional Record, 74th Congress, 1st Sess., 1935, 79, 6026).
233. For more on the New Deal coalition and the three major factions, see Ira Katznelson, Kim Geiger, and Daniel Kryder, “Limiting Liberalism: The Southern Veto in Congress, 1933–1950,” Political Science Quarterly 108, no. 2 (1993): 283–306.
234. Eric Schickler, Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932–1965 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016).
235. For more on FDR's relationship with many of these leaders and the Democratic party, see Susan Dunn, Roosevelt's Purge: How FDR Fought to Change the Democratic Party (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).
236. Mary Poole, The Segregated Origins of Social Security: African Americans and the Welfare State (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 95–96. Poole describes a memo written by Frances Perkins to FDR in negotiating with Jere Cooper and Fred Vinson (KY). The memo was “apparently intended for FDR to use as talking points in phone conversation with House Ways and Means leaders Jere Cooper of Tennessee and Fred Vinson of Kentucky and possibly others: ‘The Economic Security Bill is taking a long time in Committee…. I should be sorry to see agricultural labor exempted form unemployment insurance, but I understand the political difficulties which results in rural districts if you vote against such exemptions.’ Perkins seems to be suggesting that Congress support the Wisconsin plan in exchange for administration support to exclude agricultural workers.”
237. Schickler, Racial Realignment, 10.
238. As Nancy Weiss puts it, “In the fall of 1935, frustrated and disappointed, Vann resigned his position and returned to the Pittsburgh Courier.” In my own search of Justice Department documents from this era, Vann is seemingly nowhere to be found. Cummings relied heavily on his high-ranking assistants, and they often led initiatives and drafted important documents. Vann experienced no such luxury, despite sharing a title with many others who appear regularly. See Schickler, Racial Realignment, 48–49; Weiss, Farewell to the Party of Lincoln, 44.
239. See, for instance, Megan Ming Francis, “The Price of Civil Rights: Black Lives, White Funding, and Movement Capture,” Law & Society Review, 53 (2019): 275–309. https://doi.org/10.1111/lasr.12384; Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919–1950 (New York: W.W. Norton).
240. See, for example, Jesse O. Thomas, “U.S., Aflame over Latest Kidnaping, Is Silent on Lynching, a Worse Evil: Who Is Kidnaped?” The Chicago Defender, January 23, 1937.
241. Quoted by McMahon, Reconsidering Roosevelt on Race, 41.
242. In a letter from Walter White to FDR, he called out the Justice Department and Cummings for their inaction: “May we also direct your attention to the enclosed editorial from Mr. David Stern's New York Evening Post in which the failure of the Department of Justice and of Attorney General Cummings to proceed against the kidnappers of Neal under the ‘Lindbergh’ kidnaping law is excoriated and Attorney General Cummings's excuses for his failure to set are termed ‘legalistic fiddlesticks’” (FDR Archives, Eleanor Roosevelt Personal Letters , 1933–1945, box 606).
243. “If the nation can enact laws, and come to the defense of single or few families who are prominent as in the case of the Lindbergh incident, then we feel the time is ripe to beg of you a stand in behalf of our Negro population. Right in this war, can win only in proportion as it is given out to those who defend right for others” (Letter from L. Ramsey to FDR, June 24, 1943, FDR Archives OF 93c, box 8).
244. See, for example, Winston Harrington, “‘Legal Lynching!’ Nation's Reply to Infamous Scottsboro Jury's Verdict: Alabama Jury Spurns Evidence to Convict Scottsboro Boy New Picture of Scottsboro Boys ‘We Lied,’” The Chicago Defender (National Edition) (1921–1967), April 15, 1933.
245. See Niedermeier, The Color of the Third Degree.
246. See Carter, Scottsboro. See also Gilmore, Defying Dixie, 106–156.
248. Quoted by ibid., 65.
249. For instance, in a 1936 of The Crisis, one article reported on “Kentucky's Scottsboro Case,” pointing to the falsification of evidence and false confessions induced by torture. Mary Brite writes in the article, “A 19-year old boy sits in the death cell in Kentucky based on the same kind of ‘evidence’ used in the Scottsboro case was used against him. His ‘confession’ was obtained by the same methods denounced by the U.S. supreme court in the Mississippi torture case” (Mary D. Brite, “Kentucky's Scottsboro Case,” The Crisis, April 1936).
250. FDR Archives, “Bibb Graves Re Scottsboro Case,” PSF box 151,
251. “O'Ryan Clears Policemen in Scottsboro Brutality: O'Ryan Must Go: An Open Letter,” New York Amsterdam, September 15, 1934.
252. This is based on a search of six newspapers from 1930 to 1939 using the ProQuest newspaper database. The White newspapers were The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Black newspapers were the New York Amsterdam, The Chicago Defender, and the Pittsburgh Courier.
253. See Lindsey Lupo, Flak-Catchers: One Hundred Years of Riot Commission Politics in America (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010), 59–78. Lupo elucidates how Black leaders called for radical changes, but the report was softened by the LaGuardia administration and not even released, despite calls from Black newspapers.
254. Quoted by ibid., 76, from “Report of Subcommittee Which Investigated the Disturbance of March 19th,” May 29, 1935. This quote is from the initial report, but the final edition of the report tempered the language.
255. See Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005).
256. Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (New York: Liveright, 2017).
257. Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), 55.
258. Harvey Kantor and Robert Lowe, “Class, Race, and the Emergence of Federal Education Policy: From the New Deal to the Great Society,” Educational Researcher 24, no. 3 (1995): 4–11, 21.
259. See discussion in the section above on the expansion of federal capacity; see discussion below on diffusion to the states for more on expansion of state capacity. When Frank Murphy took over for Homer Cummings, he took a slightly bolder approach to civil rights. In February 1939, he announced the creation of the Civil Liberties Unit, soon renamed the Civil Rights Section. Sections 51 and 52 of the criminal code provided grounds for intervening in cases of civil rights violations. But investigations were rare and even more rarely successful. The Supreme Court also established a standard that became nearly impossible to meet. In Screws v. United States, Justice Douglas said that civil rights violations by police officers must be proven to be “in open defiance or in reckless disregard of a constitutional requirement which has been made specific and definite.” After Thurgood Marshall had become a Supreme Court Justice, he said that “as much as he admired William Douglas, he could never forgive him for the Screws decision.” Quoted by McMahon, Reconsidering Roosevelt on Race, 175.
260. Robin D.G. Kelley, “‘Slangin’ Rocks … Palestinian Style’: Dispatches from the Occupied Zones of North America,” in Police Brutality: An Anthology, ed. Jill Nelson (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000), 34.
261. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, 29.
262. See Detroit Police Commissioner's report on Detroit riot sent to FDR administration, FDR Archives, OF 93c, box 8, 7; J. Edgar Hoover letter following the Detroit riot, FDR Archives, OF 93c, box 8, 2.
263. Attorney General Frank Biddle summary of recommendations to President from Ed Rhett's report on race riots, FDR Archives, OF 93c, box 8, 2.
264. See Walter White and Thurgood Marshall, What Caused the Detroit Riot? An Analysis (New York: National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples, 1943).
265. Ibid. Widespread racism: “But the overwhelming majority [of White migrants from the south] retained and even increased their hostility to Negroes. This was particularly noticeable when Negroes were forced by sheer necessity to purchase or rent houses outside the so-called Negro area. For years preceding the riot, there had been mob attacks dating back as far as the famous Sweet case in 1925 upon the homes of Negroes. In some instances there had been police connivance in these attacks. In practically no cases had there been arrests of whites who had stoned or bombed the homes of Negroes” (pp. 4–5); discrimination in jobs: “Early in June, 1943, 25,000 employees of the Packard Plant, which was making Rolls-Royce engines for American bombers and marine engines for the famous PT boats, ceased work in protest against the upgrading of three Negroes” (p. 6); segregation and discrimination in the armed forces: “The same riot and the one of June, 1943, as well as stories of lynchings, attacks upon Negro soldiers, continued discrimination and segregation in the armed forces of the United States … are grist to the mill of the Tokyo and Berlin radios” (pp. 14–15); residential segregation and lack of adequate housing: “Detroit's 200,000 Negroes are today largely packed into two segregated areas” and “From all other public housing projects erected in Detroit, Negroes were totally excluded” (p. 5); racism in the police: “The anti-Negro motivation of the Detroit police department is further illustrated by these facts and figures. It has already been pointed out that the Negro population of Detroit at the time of the riot was 200,000 or less, out of a total population of more than 2,000,000. The inevitable riot was the product of anti-Negro forces which had been allowed to operate without check or hindrance by the police over a period of many years. But 29 of the 35 persons who died during the riot were Negroes. An overwhelming majority of the more than 600 injured were Negroes. Of the 1832 persons arrested for rioting, more than 85% were Negroes. And this in the face of the indisputable fact that the aggressors over a period of years were not Negroes but whites” (p. 12); racial animosity fomented by the press: “The Hearst-owned Detroit Times has for years featured crime, real or alleged, by Negroes and has been distinctly unfriendly in its attitude towards the Negro and his aspirations” (p. 13).
266. More from White and Marshall, What Caused the Detroit Riot? Federal investigation of Detroit police: “The affidavits we have taken are more than sufficient to justify the calling of a special grand jury to investigate the nonfeasance and malfeasance of the police as a contributing factor in the Detroit riots” (p. 28); increased recreational and civic opportunities for Black youth: “For years it has been apparent that Detroit's recreation facilities were inadequate to meet the need,” with eight specific recommendations for changing this; more Black representation and power in the educational system: “more Negro teachers be employed and placed throughout the school system on an integrated basis,” “that qualified Negro teachers be advanced to principalships”; racial integration of neighborhoods: “Now is the time to reconsider living together. The riot has proven that segregation whether voluntary or involuntary, produces separateness and friction” (p. 18); education focused on race in schools: “That the Board of Education and the schools through their Social Science Departments include study units on the subject of racial unity” (p. 17); a vigorous antiracism campaign: “A vigorous campaign of affirmative propaganda through radio, moving pictures, posters and other media to educate the American people that people of all colors, races, and creeds are fighting this war” (p. 22); affordable housing: “We urge release by the federal government of building materials through the granting of priorities for the construction of homes, dormitories and other houses for war workers in the Detroit area” (p. 21); labor unions working against racism: “That inter-racial committees of international unions be activated where they are already in existence by launching a program of education and adjustment to problems of racial-differences” (p. 18); reparations: We urge that the City Government immediately take steps to make reparations for the loss of life, limb, and property in Detroit” (p. 18). Thurgood Marshall also said in private correspondence, “Despite all that has been done by the NAACP and others there have been only a few minor changes. The underlying policy of segregation and discrimination is no better and if anything worse. We are still second class citizens as civilian and second class soldiers and officers in the army” (Letter from Thurgood Marshall to E. Frederic Morrow, August 28, 1943, LOC, NAACP Papers, Group II, Box A-593, from Patricia Sullivan, Lift Every Voice [New York: New Press, 2009], 281).
267. Suddler, Presumed Criminal, 61. This came from a list of demands from the Citizen's Committee on Better Race Relations. Their demands were similar to Walter White and Thurgood Marshall's after Detroit, focusing on rectifying racial disparities and providing necessary resources and increasing Black power. Now, it's important to note that Walter White commended the NYPD response to the uprising, particularly in comparison to the Detroit police. But others on the ground contradicted his praise. Moreover, it's important to situate that praise within his broader calls for justice named in the Detroit report (see Suddler, Presumed Criminal, 62–64).
268. Suddler, Presumed Criminal, 60. For more on Harlem, see also Shannon King, Whose Harlem Is This, Anyway? Community Politics and Grassroots Activism during the New Negro Era (New York: New York University Press, 2015); Cheryl Lynn Greenberg, “Or Does It Explode?” Black Harlem in the Great Depression (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).
269. Pauli Murray Letter to Martin McIntyre, FDR Archives, OF 93c, box 8, 6. For more on Pauli Murray and her efforts during this era, see Rosalind Rosenberg, Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017); Patricia Bell-Scott, Firebrand and the First Lady: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016).
270. Pauli Murray Letter to Martin McIntyre, 1.
273. Ibid., 5. Note that Walter White and Thurgood Marshall did worry about the saturation of immigration to Detroit, but not on the basis of race. They feared that local laborers could miss out on work because of the continued flow of migrants. In fact, they may have been referring to the recruitment of White migrants from other cities for jobs that could otherwise have gone to Black people who had already migrated. See White and Thurgood, What Caused the Detroit Riot? 21.
274. Pauli Murray, “Mr. Roosevelt Regrets,” The Crisis, August 1943. See also Bell-Scott, Firebrand and the First Lady, 125–26. Eleanor responded cryptically, “I have your poem dated July 21st. I am sorry but I understand.”
275. See Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970); Ida B. Wells, “Lynching and the Excuse for It,” in Lynching and Rape: An Exchange of Views, ed. Bettina Aptheker (San Jose, CA: American Institute of Marxist Studies, 1977), 28–34; Lawrie Balfour, “Ida B. Wells and ‘Color Line Justice’: Rethinking Reparations in Feminist Terms,” Perspective on Politics 13, no. 3 (2015): 680–96.
276. This is a summary of the efforts of Walter White, Thurgood Marshall, and Pauli Murray. See the preceding pages and footnotes for elaboration.
277. Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (New York: Bantam Books, 1968), 265; Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness, xvi. The new preface (pp. xi–xxviii) to this edition powerfully traces the relevance of this history and the painful recurrences we continue to experience. Ida B. Wells also makes a similar point before her death in 1931 upon reflecting on the Chicago riot of 1919: “Many recommendations were made, but few, if any, have been carried out. Chicago has thus been left with a heritage of race prejudice which seems to increase rather than decrease” (Wells, Crusade for Justice, 408).
278. Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness, xvi.
279. See Hinton, From the War on Crime to the War on Poverty.
280. Eugene Lewis, Public Entrepreneurship: Toward a Theory of Bureaucratic Political Power: The Organizational Lives of Hyman Rickover, J. Edgar Hoover, and Robert Moses (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980).
281. See Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White.
282. FDR Archives, PPF 7758, p. 11.
283. “For the sake of brevity, it might be stated that the courses divide themselves into the following general headings: Scientific and Technical, including laboratory work and fingerprint identification procedures; Records, Report Writing and Statistics, including filing systems, uniform crime reporting and crime statistics work; Firearms Training, including instruction and practice on indoor and outdoor firearms range; Investigations, Enforcement and Regulatory Procedure, including most of the various functions of police officers on patrol, detective and other staffs; Tests and Practical Experience, including actual performance, under supervision, of various law enforcement functions; Police Organization and Administration, including instruction to police executives and also equipping subordinate employees to be of such aid as their superiors may desire in administrative work; Police Tactics, including instruction in making arrests, making searches, stopping automobiles, blocking roads, making raids and similar police functions; Physical Training and Defense Techniques, including daily physical exercises and training, gymnastics, recreational games, disarming practices and adaptations of jiu jutsu; and Organization and Operating Police Schools and Training Methods, including actual practical experience, under supervision, in instruction work” (FBI Academy Magazine, FDR Archives, PPF 7758, 5).
285. “The 187 graduates have represented organizations having a total personnel of 68,283 who, indirectly, are provided with an opportunity to receive instruction, based upon the course of study provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation” (J. Edgar Hoover, Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1939: Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, 75th Congress, 3rd Sess. on the Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1939, 160). “One great objective of this National Academy is that it has obviated the necessity for a national police force which some people advocate and which I have vigorously opposed. I think responsibility should be at the local level. In doing that we can give our training and knowledge to local officers and we are glad and happy to do so and through the National Academy established in 1935 we are doing that. We have had 36 sessions and 1748 graduates, and 26.5 percent of those graduates are now heads of police departments. It makes our work easier. I recall at San Diego during the war the police chief was a graduate of our Academy” (J. Edgar Hoover, Department of Justice Appropriation Bill for 1950: Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, 81st Congress, 1st Sess., 241).
286. FDR Archives, PPF 7758, 1.
287. FDR Archives, PPF 7758. Cummings shared this value of setting standards for others to follow. In a 1945 letter reflecting on his tenure as attorney general, he said, “This [advance in criminal procedure] is not only desirable in itself, but sets an excellent example for the States to follow. Indeed, notable progress has already been made along these lines.” Homer Cummings Papers, box 114.
288. Max Felker-Kantor, Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD, 21.
289. Lewis, Public Entrepreneurship, 109–10.
290. “Nation is Called to War on Crime,” New York Times, October 7, 1933.
291. “State-Wide War on Crime Launched Here,” The Atlanta Constitution, December 30, 1934.
292. “Bill Would Set Up Crime Board,” The Austin Statesman, January 17, 1935: “Texas legislators declared war on crime and criminals today.” The quotation in the text is from “Allred's Tenure Saw Formation of State Police: Governor Did Much to Bring S-Men to High Mark: War on Crime, From Modest Start, Department Grew to One of the Best,” The Austin American, December 25, 1938.
293. “Stark Denies Report He Will Take U.S. Job: He Will Finish Term as Governor—Says Murphy Pledged Aid in War on Crime,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 19, 1939.
294. The story of state police agencies is a complicated one. Some reformers called for more state police authority to protect against lynchings at the hands of complicit or overrun police officials. Some states lacked significant police authority, forming only highway patrols with limited power. Others developed extensive agencies and launched wars on crime of their own. In practice, as the data below show, those targeted—not protected—by state and local agencies were overwhelmingly Black. See Kimberly Johnson, Reforming Jim Crow: Southern Politics and State in the Age before Brown (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 62–64; Robert Mickey, Paths Out of Dixie: The Democratization of Authoritarian Enclaves in America's Deep South, 1944–1972 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015); Cooper, Weldon, “The State Police Movement in the South,” The Journal of Politics, no. 1 (1939): 414–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For more on the development of state policing agencies, see Musgrave, Paul, “Bringing the State Police In: The Diffusion of U.S. Statewide Policing Agencies, 1905–1941,” Studies in American Political Development (2020): 1–21. doi: 10.1017/S0898588X20000036CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
295. “Miami Sheriff Opens War on Crime Element,” The Atlanta Constitution, January 25, 1933; Herman Hancock, “Atlanta's New Mayor Opens War on Crime,” The Atlanta Constitution, June 2, 1942.
296. “Phoenix Police Use Science in Ceaseless War On Crime,” Arizona Republic, November 28, 1938.
297. Roy Noble, “Police Radio, in Use Here Three Years, Is Invaluable Aid in City's War on Crime,” Tampa Bay Times, December 13, 1936.
298. McGirr notes, “By 1939, all but nine states had adopted uniform antinarcotics legislation backed by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and more were on the way” (The War on Alcohol, 219).
299. Suzanne Mettler, The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011); Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White.
300. Gallup Poll, No. 145, Question 6, USGALLUP.39-145.QA05, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, 1939, data set.
301. Fortune Magazine, Roper Fortune No. 5: The President/Government, Question 12, USROPER.39-005.QB1C, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, 1939, data set. This contrasts with the same question when asked about the army and navy, with 96 percent of respondents saying the government should provide this.
302. Balto, Occupied Territory, 94. See also Fogelson, Big-City Police.
303. Gallup Poll, No. 709, Question 12, USGALLUP.709.Q011A, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, 1965, data set.
304. Steven White, World War II and American Racial Politics: Public Opinion, and Civil Rights Advocacy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 50–53.
305. Gallup Poll, No. 1937-0102: Roosevelt Administration/Minimum Wage/Presidential Election, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, 1937, data set.
306. See Margaret Werner Calahan, Historical Corrections Statistics in the United States, 1850–1984 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1986), Table 4-14, 90. According to data from the census reported here for select offenses, Black people were in prison for 16 percent longer on average than native Whites. The disparities varied by charge and region. For instance, Black people in the North charged with burglary spent 90 percent more time in jail.
307. Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, Volume II (New Brunswick: Transaction, 2009 ): 540–41.
308. Davis, Gardner, and Gardner, Deep South, 15. See also Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (New York: Random House, 2020), 245–56. Wilkerson describes the project Davis and the Gardners undertook. Davis was a Black anthropologist, and the Gardners were White anthropologists (and a married couple). Together, they studied the social system of the Deep South. Wilkerson describes how other studies—by White academics who undertook much smaller efforts—were and continue to be privileged. She concludes, “The Davis and Gardner project seemed to meet the same fate of marginalization as the subordinate caste that they had studied” (Wilkerson, Caste, 253).
309. Davis, Gardner, and Gardner, Deep South, 503.
311. Naomi Murakawa, The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 13–17.
312. Homer Cummings Papers, box 114. There is no evidence that the FBI affected the decline in lynchings in the preceding decades. More credit can be given to the activists and communities who publicized the horrors of lynching. See Weaver, Michael, “‘Judge Lynch’ in the Court of Public Opinion: Publicity and the De-Legitimation of Lynching,” American Political Science Review 113, no. 2 (2019): 293–310, doi:10.1017/S0003055418000886CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
313. Selwyn Raab, Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2005), 120–21.
314. See Skowronek, Stephen, “The Reassociation of Ideas and Purposes: Racism, Liberalism, and the American Political Tradition,” American Political Science Review 100, no. 3 (2006): 385–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
315. Saint Augustine, The City of God, trans. William Babcock (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2013).
316. Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime; Murakawa, The First Civil Right.
317. Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime, 3.
319. Weaver, “Frontlash”; Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime.
320. Weaver, “Frontlash,” 230.
322. See O'Reilly, Kenneth, “The FBI and the Politics of the Riots, 1964–1968,” The Journal of American History 75, no. 1 (1988): 91–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
323. Marquette FBI Records series 29, box 1, November 22, 1933. He goes on to say, “His distorted mind is bent upon injuring, maltreating, preying upon or destroying the innocent and the helpless. In an emergency he is almost invariably a coward. The real heroes are the courageous judges and public officials and officers of the law, throughout our land, who, in the line of duty, are performing their dangerous and necessary tasks with devotion and zeal. These men are the veritable peace time soldiers of the Republic.”
324. Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime, 71.
325. “In 1971, Richard Nixon shrilly warned that drug abuse was a ‘national emergency’ and ‘public enemy number one’” (McGirr, The War on Alcohol, 251). See also Camp, Jordan, Incarcerating the Crisis: Freedom Struggles and the Rise of the Neoliberal State (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
326. See Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents (New York: Random House, 2020), 78–88; James Q. Whitman, Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017).
327. Marsh, Charles, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (New York: Vintage Books, 2014), 132–33Google Scholar; Reggie L. Williams, Bonhoeffer's Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2014).
328. Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd, “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” The Journal of American History 91, no. 4 (2005): 1233–63, doi:10.2307/3660172CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
329. Travis, Jeremy and Western, Bruce, eds., The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2014), 57Google Scholar.
330. Bureau of the Census (1929–1948), Prisoners in State and Federal Prisons and Reformatories (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO).
No CrossRef data available.