Humanities in Class: Webinar Series

Defund the Police: Protest Slogans and the Terms for Debate

Lead Scholar: Austin McCoy (Assistant Professor of History, Auburn University)

September 15, 2020

The deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have inspired Americans and people throughout the world to take to the streets in protest against police brutality. In the course of what might be the largest movement for civil rights since the 1960s, many activists have issued calls to “defund the police” in response to police killings of Black Americans. This demand and slogan has generated much debate, just as Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activist Stokely Carmichael’s call for “Black Power” did in 1967. In this webinar, we will use Carmichael’s concept of “Black Power,” and the ensuing debate around that slogan, to think about how we can use history to understand contemporary social movements and protests. This will contribute to a broader examination of the purpose and significance of terminology in activism and a look at how speech and framing can help to reshape political culture.

Subjects: History; Political Science; Activism; Protests; Black Lives Matter; Law Enforcement; Black Power Movement; Civil Rights