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'Momma, momma hide your child. The cops are shooting as if they're wild': Race, Police Violence and Perceptions of Criminality in early 1970's NYC

  • Presented By: New York State Library Location: Online
  • Dates: May 13, 2021
  • Time: 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
  • Price: Free
  • Overview

    In July 1974, some 15 months after 10-year-old year old Clifford Glover was gunned down on the streets of Jamaica, Queens, New York City by Police Officer Thomas Shea, Charles E. Carter wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Amsterdam News. Emotional, frustrated, and angry, Carter declared it "was open season on New York Blacks." Carter arrived at the conclusion promulgated by Elijah Muhammed that "The Black man is a foreigner in the United States of America." Carter opined that all hope for any form of integration, or reconciliation, was at this moment lost. "I expect and want nothing from American white people," Carter declared, because the Shea case makes it clear to policemen to "shoot them (blacks) in their cribs." The murder of 11-year-old Ricky Bodden and 10-year-old Clifford Glover in 1972 and 1973 respectively, aroused anger and fear that white New York City police officers were literally gunning down Black children in cold blood, or as Carter claimed, "shooting them in their cribs." Egregious as these killings appeared to Black residents, the subsequent acquittals of the white police officers only stoked their outrage. The New York Times editorial page claimed that "the fear engendered by such neighborhoods seems to be at the heart of such cases." Indeed, although suspicion and hostility between Black communities and police officers had been a long-standing feature of urban life in the 20th century, the early 1970s in New York City appeared to be a seminal moment in the consolidation of blackness with criminality.

    This presentation by Peter Vellon will examine the murder of Clifford Glover in order to gauge the Black community's reaction to police violence in early 1970s New York City, as well as how neighborhood's such as Jamaica, Queens, became closely associated with criminality.

    Peter G. Vellon is an Associate Professor of History at Queens College/The City University of New York. He received his PhD in History from the Graduate Center/CUNY in 2003. His research has focused on late nineteenth and early twentieth century immigration to the United States and questions of race, whiteness, and identity. He is the author of A Great Conspiracy Against our Race: Italian Immigrant Newspapers and the Construction of Whiteness in the Early 20th, published by New York University Press in their Culture, Work, and Labor Series (2014). His articles have appeared in journals such as The Ethnic Studies Review and the Italian American Review and he has published several book chapters on Italian immigrants, race and whiteness. His current research strays from immigration and delves more directly into African American history, more specifically examining resistance among communities of color in 1970s NYC to systemic racism and policing.

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