Policing the Black Man, Edited by Professor Angela J. Davis, Addresses the Criminal Justice System’s Adverse Impact on African American Boys and Men



Professor Angela J. Davis’ new book Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment, released Tuesday, July 11, by Pantheon Books, is already garnering a variety of positive reviews and recommendations. One of the book’s first glowing endorsements is from Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, author of Beloved and Song of Soloman, who said of Davis’ anthology:

 “Somewhere among the anger, mourning and malice that Policing the Black Man documents lies the pursuit of justice. This powerful book demands our fierce attention.”

A comprehensive, readable analysis of the key issues of the Black Lives Matter movement, this anthology, edited by Davis, features essays by some of the nation’s most influential and respected criminal justice experts and legal scholars.

Policing the Black Man explores and critiques the many ways the criminal justice system impacts the lives of African American boys and men at every stage of the criminal process, from arrest through sentencing. Essays range from an explication of the historical roots of racism in the criminal justice system to an examination of modern-day police killings of unarmed black men. The contributors discuss and explain topics such as racial profiling, the power and discretion of police and prosecutors, the role of implicit bias, the racial impact of police and prosecutorial decisions, the disproportionate imprisonment of black men, and the collateral consequences of mass incarceration.

In the book’s introduction, Davis says “the tragic killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Erik Garner, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, and others served as a catalyst for this anthology.”

To complete the book, which took two years during a time when many high-profile police shootings captured the nation’s attention, Davis sought out the scholars, writers, lawyers, and activists who are among the nation’s top experts on these issues and asked them to join the project. She also contributes a chapter entitled “The Prosecution of Black Men.”

“I am extremely proud of the authors who agreed to participate in this project; their essays are outstanding,” Davis said. “Most of the authors suggest reforms to address the problems they write about, and it is my hope that the readers – policymakers, advocates, activists, and ordinary citizens – will be inspired to implement these reforms.”

Contributors include Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy, and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

On Aug. 30, the law school is hosting an event to celebrate Policing the Black Man, and a panel of Davis’ co-authors will join her to address issues from the book: Professors Roger Fairfax (George Washington), Kristin Henning  (Georgetown) and Renée Hutchins (Maryland) and Marc Mauer (The Sentencing Project). More information about this event will soon follow.

Davis is an expert in criminal law and procedure with a specific focus on prosecutorial power and racism in the criminal justice system. She previously served as director of the D.C. Public Defender Service. Davis won the Pauline Ruyle Moore Award for her book Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor, published in 2007. At AUWCL she teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Criminal Defense: Theory and Practice.


Following are a selection of reviews of Policing the Black Man and inclusions on summer reading lists:

  • Essence Magazine, July 2017 Issue – “Summer’s Best Books”
  • NPR, July 11, 2017 – Davis and Sherrilyn Ifill interviewed on Baltimore’s WYPR “Midday” show
  • Signature, July 11, 2017 – “Why Angela J. Davis’s New Book Is Essential Reading”
  • National Book Review, July 10, 2017 – 5 Hot Books
  • Slate, July 3, 2017 – Davis’ interview with Isaac Chotineer
  • Chicago Review of Books, June 2017
  • Publishers Weekly, May 2017
  • Elle, April 2017 – “The 24 Best Books to Read this Summer”