Dispatches from London: “Under Control?” Conference

This past weekend alcohol and drug scholars across the globe descended upon London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to learn from each other about what they know best, alcohol and drugs.  The interdisciplinary conference does much to encourage scholarship across lines of disciplinary specializations, but also, the nation-state.  Below please find assorted notes fromContinue reading “Dispatches from London: “Under Control?” Conference”

“Blacks Declare War on Dope”

When I began researching grassroots responses to crack-cocaine I found myself—albeit naively—both surprised and confused by heavy-handed, aggressive calls for more policing and harsher sentencing from working and middle class black urbanites.  Was this unique to the period?  Did this represent a specific and different response to the marketing invention of crack?  Moreover, I foundContinue reading ““Blacks Declare War on Dope””

Kojak Liberals and Stingy Suburbanites

Journalist and political commentator E.J. Dionne Jr. began his Washington Post Op-Ed of June 15, 1993 by chronicling the recent success of then-elect mayor of Los Angeles, Richard Riordan.  Elected on the promise that he was “tough enough to turn L.A. around,” Riordan talked an awful lot about crime and business confidence.  Despite his RepublicanContinue reading “Kojak Liberals and Stingy Suburbanites”

Failed Frontlash: How Liberals Furthered the Case for Mass Incarceration

The response to the Civil Rights Movement initiated one of the most punitive interventions in United States history. Beginning with the Law Enforcement Assistance Act of 1965 and onward, the state took on a new role in crime and drug control. State and federal governments revised their criminal codes, imposing mandatory minimums and effectively abolishingContinue reading “Failed Frontlash: How Liberals Furthered the Case for Mass Incarceration”

Historians in Harlem: Missives from the 2012 UHA Conference

Despite the specter of Hurricane Sandy, the Urban History Association successfully held its conference in Harlem, NY, on the campus of Columbia University this past weekend.  While drug and alcohol-related histories were not at center stage, an encouraging and notable increase in mass incarceration histories must be acknowledged.  More frequently, urban historians are being forcedContinue reading “Historians in Harlem: Missives from the 2012 UHA Conference”

Irrational Intolerance

On October 27, 1986 Ronald Reagan signed Public Law 99-570 with the overwhelming bipartisan support of the 99th Congress.  Spurred by the June death of basketball star Len Bias, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 hurried its way into federal law nearly as fast as crack emerged onto the national scene.  In prepared remarks thatContinue reading “Irrational Intolerance”

Disposable Citizens

In May of 2008 recent Florida State graduate Rachel Hoffman reluctantly got in her car with 13,000 dollars in cash set to buy 2 and ½ ounces of cocaine, 1500 pills of Ecstasy, and a semi-automatic handgun in a Tallahassee P.D. approved sting operation.  A few weeks earlier, two disparate events promised to change theContinue reading “Disposable Citizens”


Ruminating over the crack era landscape of Oakland, California, scholar Mike Davis noted with passing interest what appeared to be a new phenomenon in his 1990 work, City of Quartz.  In past years, Davis commented, aggressive law-and-order demands were “dismissed as the venom of white backlash.”  In the crack era, however, a new and unprecedentedContinue reading “Black-lash?”

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