Ursidae: The Undergraduate Research Journal at the University of Northern Colorado

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How did the use of police dogs affect the American civil rights movement? This paper argues that police dogs during the movement furthered the protesters’ cause through violent conflicts between law enforcement and protesters. The use of police dogs during this movement characterized the interconnected historical struggle between African Americans and the white supremacist status quo represented by law enforcement. While initially serving as tools for law enforcement to fight crime, police dogs became brutal symbols of the status quo’s power against the protesters. However, instead of ceding to the status quo, protestors embraced a form of martyrdom to continue their fight for equality. Through these acts, the movement transformed the dogs into an opportunity to showcase the brutality of the dogs and, to a larger extent, the police and status quo. This transformation created a change within this interconnected history by shifting power from the status quo and into the black community to get growing support from American society. Additionally, this paper shows how the use of media helped spread images and testimonies of the brutality of police dogs to the American public. This in turn caused vocal outrage against law enforcement and sympathy for the movement.

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