“I Was Their Sacrifice”: Gary Tyler and The Criminalization of Black Students during Desegregation

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@ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

A quilt depicting a shackled Black teenager raising his fists.
Gary Tyler, Defiant, 1976, 2023, Quilting Fabric, Thread, and Batting, 47h x 38w in.

Walter C. Stern

Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Fellow (2023-2024)

Vilas Associate Professor, Educational Policy Studies; Affiliate, Department of History, UW–Madison

“I Was Their Sacrifice”: Gary Tyler and The Criminalization of Black Students during Desegregation

On October 7, 1974, Gary Tyler was an outspoken sixteen-year-old Black student attending a desegregating high school in southeast Louisiana. When racial brawls culminated in a white student’s death that day, police pinned the killing on Tyler. An all-white jury then convicted him as an adult following a trial that featured coerced testimony, an allegedly planted murder weapon, the failure to disclose exculpatory evidence, and an unconstitutional jury charge. Despite these injustices, Tyler remained imprisoned until 2016. This talk traces Tyler’s incarceration to the American state’s racialized failure to recognize children as simultaneously autonomous and dependent individuals.

Walter C. Stern is Vilas Associate Professor of Educational Policy Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His research examines intersections between racism, state action, and ordinary people’s lives in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States, with a focus on public schools and the metropolitan South. He is the author of Race & Education in New Orleans: Creating the Segregated City, 1764-1960, which received the 2018 Williams Prize for the best book on Louisiana history. His articles and essays have appeared in the Journal of Southern History, Journal of African American HistoryJournal of Urban History, and Teachers College Record.

*Events currently open only to 2023-24 fellows due to space concerns; please contact IRH at info@irh.wisc.edu to be added to a cancellation list for in-person events.*