Cover: Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment, from Harvard University PressCover: Black Silent Majority in HARDCOVER

Black Silent Majority

The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment

Provocative… As Fortner’s book makes clear, no political movement can afford to ignore the kind of cruel disorder that we euphemistically call common crime. A police force that kills black citizens is adding to America’s history of racial violence; so is a police force that fails to keep them safe.—Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker

Seeks to reverse the conventional wisdom about not only the Rockefeller laws themselves, but also the broader history of the war on drugs… After Black Silent Majority, historians can no longer reduce the ’60s and ’70s politics of crime to the delusional fantasies of racists or to statistical artifacts of modern police record-keeping (although those factors surely played a role as well). Fortner marshals an array of poll data showing that black city dwellers were—and not without reason—far more fearful of violence in the late 1960s than white suburbanites were.—Sara Mayeux, Reason

This provocative history alerts a rising generation of would-be reformers—the young masses that have recently filled the streets of New York and other cities to protest after each new tragedy—to how a well-intentioned proposal can lead to something unintended and disastrous, like mass incarceration. This lesson should resound, given the political clout the criminal-justice-reform movement continues to acquire.—Jack Dickey, Time

A fresh, bold, powerful book that shakes up a pressing contemporary debate. Fortner insists on listening to the black voices that supported the rise of our terrible incarceration policies. Through careful research, he describes a deeply conflicted community—confronting crime, groping for respectability, challenging the white gaze, and reaching for social justice. Black Silent Majority is forcefully argued, beautifully written, and profoundly moving.—James A. Morone, author of Hellfire Nation and The Devils We Know

Meticulously researched, engagingly written, and rigorously argued, this important and long-overdue work will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the hidden complexities of African American life. Fortner illuminates the problems that the majority of working- and middle-class blacks face from criminal elements within their communities; the sometimes patronizing indifference of white and black liberals toward them, compounded by the manipulation of their concerns by conservatives; and the tragic, unintended consequences of a flawed drug and penal policy they were driven, out of despair and fury, to support. This is a major contribution to our understanding of the interaction of class, race, and public policy in America.—Orlando Patterson, Harvard University

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Jacket: The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America, by T. H. Breen, from Harvard University Press

Q&A with T. H. Breen, author of The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America

In most histories of the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers are foregrounded. In The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America, T. H. Breen recovers the forgotten history of our nation’s true founders—ordinary Americans. We spoke with him about what he discovered while writing the book, and what relevance it might have to today’s politics