Event—Public Programming

Policing, Violence, and Torture in Chicago


Listen to an audio recording of this program.

Join us for a Meet the Author event with Simon Balto and Laurence Ralph, who will converse about their latest work on police violence in Chicago.

Simon Balto is Assistant Professor of African-American History at the University of Iowa. His latest book, Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power, surveys the history of Chicago from 1919 to the rise and fall of Black Power in the 1960s and 1970s, narrating the evolution of racially repressive policing in black neighborhoods as well as how black citizen-activists challenged that repression. Balto demonstrates that punitive practices by and inadequate protection from the police were central to black Chicagoans’ lives long before the late-century "wars" on crime and drugs. By exploring the deeper origins of this toxic system, Balto reveals how modern mass incarceration, built upon racialized police practices, emerged as a fully formed machine of profoundly anti-black subjugation.

Laurence Ralph is Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University, as well as the Director of the Center on Transnational Policing. In The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence, Laurence Ralph chronicles the history of torture in Chicago, the burgeoning activist movement against police violence, and the American public’s complicity in perpetuating torture at home and abroad. Engaging with a long tradition of epistolary meditations on racism in the United States, from James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, Ralph offers in this book a collection of open letters written to protesters, victims, students, and others. Through these moving, questing, enraged letters, Ralph bears witness to police violence that began in Burge’s Area Two and follows the city’s networks of torture to the global War on Terror.

After the talk, the authors will sign their books, which will be available for purchase in the Newberry's Rosenberg Bookshop.

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