Although potentially offering the benefits of crime control and sentence reduction, some Blacks are convinced that cooperation with criminal investigations and prosecutions should be avoided. One factor contributing to this perspective is America’s reliance on Black informants to police and socially control Blacks during slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Wars on Drugs, Crime, and Gangs. Notwithstanding this historical justification for non-cooperation, only a few informant law and policy scholars have examined closely the Black community’s relationship with informing. Furthermore, even among this small group, noticeably absent are historical explorations of Black America’s experience with informing during slavery. Drawn using a variety of primary and secondary historical and legal sources, this Article sketches the socio-legal creation, use, and regulation of Black informants in the Black community during slavery, as well as Black society’s response at that time. In developing a snapshot of the past, the Article reveals many similarities between the Black experience with informing while enslaved and in contemporary times. Consideration of these resemblances during present debate on the topic of cooperation may help to facilitate nuanced conversation as to whether and how modern Black citizens and the government should approach using informants in current times.
Andrea L. Dennis,
A Snitch in Time: An Historical Sketch of Black Informing During Slavery,
97 Marq. L. Rev. 279
Available at: https://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/mulr/vol97/iss2/4