Fortner

Michael Javen Fortner

Professor and Academic Director of Urban Studies, Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, City University of New York
Areas of Expertise:
  • Criminal Justice
  • Race & Ethnicity
  • Democracy & Governance
  • Public Health

Connect with Michael

About Michael

Fortner studies the intersection of American political development and political philosophy – particularly in the areas of race, ethnicity, and social class. His research on mass incarceration examines the role the black middle class played in the development of the carceral state. His research on urban politics examines how local political institutions shape patterns of racial and ethnic conflict within cities and national political behavior. Fortner teaches classes on urban politics and policy, racial and ethnic politics, and social science research design. Finally, Fortner teaches democratic theory and leadership for Prep for Prep, a nonprofit organization that identifies New York City’s most promising students of color and prepares them for placement at the top boarding schools in the country and the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world.

In the News

Michael Javen Fortner's research on black support of tough-on-crime policy discussed in Charles Fain Lehman, "Safety is a Civil Right," Washington Free Beacon, August 13, 2017.
Michael Javen Fortner quoted in Henry Gass, "New Black Lives Matter Platform: From Indignation to Remedies" Christian Science Monitor, August 2, 2016.
"The Last Hurrah of the 'Silent Majority'?," Michael Javen Fortner, Arguments, Democracy Journal, July 29, 2016.
"Bill Clinton was Right: Blacks Supported the Crime Bill (and That Should Surprise No One)," Michael Javen Fortner, History News Network, May 24, 2016.
Michael Javen Fortner's research on mandatory minimum drug laws discussed in Mary Grabar, "The Forgotten History of ‘the Black Silent Majority’," The Federalist, May 5, 2016.
Michael Javen Fortner quoted on the historical context of Black Lives Matter in Maurice Chammah, "American Sheriff" The Marshall Project, May 4, 2016.
Michael Javen Fortner quoted on black support for the 1994 crime bill in Jamelle Bouie, "The Messy, Very Human Politics of Bill Clinton’s Crime Bill" Slate, April 11, 2016.
Michael Javen Fortner quoted on black support for the 1994 crime bill in Henry Gass, "Why Many Black Voters Don't Blame Hillary for Tough-on-Crime Laws" Christian Science Monitor, March 14, 2016.
Michael Javen Fortner quoted on black support for the 1994 crime bill in Leon Neyfakh, "Black Americans Supported the 1994 Crime Bill, Too" Slate, February 12, 2016.
Michael Javen Fortner quoted on Black History Month in Jason L. Riley, "An Alternative Black History Month" Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2016.
Michael Javen Fortner quoted on the Black Silent Majority in Thomas Chatterton Williams, "Loaded Dice" London Review of Books, December 3, 2015.
Michael Javen Fortner quoted on Black Silent Majority in Daniel Denvir, "The Truth about Mandatory Minimums: The Left’s Painful-but Necessary-Conversation about Crime & Punishment" Salon, October 29, 2015.
"Beyond Criminal Justice Reform," Michael Javen Fortner, Dissent Magazine, Fall 2015.
"Are the Clintons to Blame for Turning the U.S. into a Prison State?," Michael Javen Fortner, Newsweek, October 10, 2015.
"Mass Incarceration's Black Support," Michael Javen Fortner, Interview with Brian Lehrer, WNYC: The Brian Lehrer Show, September 30, 2015.
Michael Javen Fortner quoted in John McWhorter, "Black Lives Matter Is Living in the Past" Daily Beast, September 28, 2015.
"The Real Roots of ’70s Drug Laws," Michael Javen Fortner, New York Times, September 28, 2015.
Michael Javen Fortner's research on the Rockefeller Drug Laws discussed in Jesse Singal, "The Black Activists Who Helped Launch the Drug War," New York Magazine, September 27, 2015.
Michael Javen Fortner's research on the Rockefeller Drug Laws and the politics of punishment discussed in Khalil Gibran Muhammad, "‘Black Silent Majority,’ by Michael Javen Fortner," New York Times, September 21, 2015.
Michael Javen Fortner's research on Black Silent Majority discussed in Alex Lichtenstein, "Mass Incarceration Has Become the New Welfare," The Atlantic, September 16, 2015.
Michael Javen Fortner quoted on Black Silent Majority in Daniel Denvir, "The Long, Ugly History of 'Law and Order' Candidates" The Atlantic, September 16, 2015.
"How the Black Middle Class Pushed for Harsher Drug Laws," Michael Javen Fortner, The Daily Beast, September 14, 2015.
Michael Javen Fortner quoted on Black Silent Majority in Brentin Mock, "Can We Talk About Urban Violence Without the Word 'Black'?" Atlantic:City Lab, September 10, 2015.
Michael Javen Fortner's research on origins of the carceral state discussed in Kelefa Sanneh, "Body Count," The New Yorker, September 8, 2015.
Michael Javen Fortner's research on mass incarceration discussed in Marc Parry, "Defending Their Homes," Chronicle of Higher Education, August 3, 2015.
Michael Javen Fortner's research on the intersection of Black urban culture with overly aggressive law enforcement discussed in Orlando Patterson, "The Real Problem with America’s Inner Cities," New York Times, May 9, 2015.
Michael Javen Fortner's research on the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech discussed in Angelo Fichera, "Palmyra Graduate Helped Pen Words that Resonate 50 Years Later," Courier-Post, August 25, 2013.
Guest to discuss the prominent role black leaders played in fostering the drug war on NCPR News, Michael Javen Fortner, August 19, 2013.
Guest to discuss the history of African-American support for anti-drug policies on NPR's Code Switch, Michael Javen Fortner, August 16, 2013.
"Election 2012: Previewing the Party Conventions," Michael Javen Fortner, Interview with Erinn Hutkin, Wicked Local, Taunton, August 23, 2012.

Publications

Black Silent Majority: Urban Politics and the Development of the Rockefeller Drug Laws (Harvard University Press, forthcoming).
Examines the role the black middle-class played in the development of mass incarceration, rejecting the widely popular new Jim Crow thesis.
Urban Citizenship and American Democracy: The Historical and Institutional Roots of Local Politics and Policy (edited with Amy Bridges) (SUNY Press, forthcoming).
Reaffirms the centrality of local politics and urban citizenship to 20th-Century American political development and democracy.
"Rediscovering the Tocquevillian Impulse: Urban Government and the Historical Development of American Democracy" in Urban Citizenship and American Democracy: The Historical and Institutional Roots of Local Politics and Policy, edited by Amy Bridges and Michael Javen Fortner (SUNY Press, forthcoming).
Constructs a theory of the urban state and explores the ways in which local politics influences broader patterns in American politics.
"'Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?' Reverend Oberia Dempsey and His Citizens War on Drugs" The Journal of Policy History 27, no. 1 (2015): 118-148.
Traces Dempsey’s activism from the early 1950s until the passage of the Rockefeller drug laws and describes the organic grassroots political responses to drug addiction, trafficking, and related crimes that developed in Harlem during the 1960s and early 1970s. Explores how the forces of urban change drove conflict between the black underclass and working and middle-class African Americans and birthed black penal populism. Argues that Dempsey and others mobilized the rich civic resources that were so crucial to the success of the black rights movement in the 1950s against the black underclass in the 1960s and early 1970s.
"‘The Silent Majority’ in Black and White: Invisibility and Imprecision in the Historiography of Mass Incarceration" Journal of Urban History (2014).
Refines the historiography of mass incarceration and post-war American political history by revealing the existence of a “black silent majority” and situating “law and order” concerns within specific local political contexts.
"The Carceral State and the Crucible of Black Politics: An Urban History of the Rockefeller Drug Laws" Studies in American Political Development 27 (April 2013): 1-22.
Examines the role the black middle class in Harlem played in the development of New York State’s Rockefeller drug laws.