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Yale professor uses southern Illinois town as research for her new book

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Elizabeth Hinton

(WSIL) -- A Yale University professor discussed her new book about racial inequality and poverty in the U.S. It's part of SIU's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute's "Understanding Our New World" series.

Her book uses some insight and research from Illinois, including one town from our area.

Historian and professor Elizabeth Hinton says while growing up, her mother and father's hometowns opened her eyes to racism and differences in social class.

"The resources that I had access to in Ann Arbor and the resources that I had access to parents who had go off to receive graduate level education in a college town versus Saginaw, which you know I was born in the mid 80s…by the 80s and 90s, it really deteriorated alongside plant closings," she said.

As she got older and went to college, she dug deeper into studying how racism can factor into crime policies and prison systems, especially after witnessing conditions inside of a facility and the amount of Black people in them.

"That experience made me I think even more angry and to want to understand how we got here, you know? Like how did we get to these generations of Black and brown men being confined in far away remote places…in these little rural prison towns," she said.

She discussed her new book “America on Fire: The Untold Story of Police Violence and Black Rebellion since the 1960s” and how civil unrest and boycotts in Cairo were included in her research.

"Throughout the 1960s as Black residents began to demand rights, in all of the arenas we've been talking about the forces of White Supremacy and vigilantism really rose there," she said.

She says she hopes her book and other events in our history will encourage people to learn more about social injustices and how resources play a part in fighting against crime and poverty.

"Until we solve the problems of inequality, until police and incarceration are no longer at the forefront of managing the consequences of poverty and inequality we're going to keep seeing incidents of police violence and we're going to keep seeing communities rising up in anger and despair," she said.

Her book will be available next month.