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Friday, April 19, 2024
Jamein Cunningham of Portland State University discussed legal and racial relations in the 1960s and ’70s at Thursday’s Institute for Research on Poverty seminar.

Jamein Cunningham of Portland State University discussed legal and racial relations in the 1960s and ’70s at Thursday’s Institute for Research on Poverty seminar.

Professor discusses legal services, race riots of 1960s

Though simply tweeting #BlackLivesMatter after a police shooting might be easy, professor Jamein Cunningham explained that immersing yourself in research and data on legal and racial relations of the 1960s and ’70s is a substantially more effective response.

Cunningham, an economics professor at Portland State University, presented findings from his extensive study on this topic at a seminar Thursday at Memorial Union, hosted by the Institute for Research on Poverty.

The presentation outlined a brief history of the Legal Services Program, which was implemented during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society in the 1960s with the intention of providing poor and underprivileged citizens with legal representation. Cunningham spent the majority of the seminar discussing his research, which focused on how the program achieved the goal of reducing the frequency and severity of race riots.

Cunningham’s research included significant empirical data. In one graph, he demonstrated how certain cities were funded earliest and were significantly correlated with which cities saw the greatest reduction in rioting. In a data table, he presented an intriguing correlation between the likelihood of a city receiving funding and whether it had a law school nearby.

Cunningham concluded the seminar with data that he said supported his hypothesis that the program mitigated riots.

Those who attended the seminar were almost entirely graduate students and professors. One graduate student, Mary Johnson, said that she valued the seminar.

“As an African American woman, the history on riots and race riots [is important],” Johnson said. “Like anything you learn, there’s a lot of opinions, but we’re developing new ways to understand why [riots] come about. I think this is a great space to show the intersectionality of race and economics in the United States.”

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