This paper examines how black members of Congress (MCs) have recognized police brutality as an issue on the congressional agenda from 1973 to 2016. Using a dataset of every bill introduced by black members of Congress during the period of study, I show that, in general, police brutality has not been an important component of black MCs’ legislative portfolios. Instead, it is an occasional focus of bill sponsorship in response to discrete, highly salient incidents of brutality and murder. These findings are contextualized through a broader discussion of black representation as a tactic for black liberation and the similarities between the history of anti-lynching legislation and the contemporary fight against police brutality.

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