Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle Gurley is The American Prospect’s deputy editor. Her email is

Recent Articles

Michael Brown’s Body, Struggle, and Progress

On August 9, 2014, Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown dead in Ferguson, Missouri. In a final act of white supremacy, the police could not be bothered to cover up his mortal remains. As his body lay in the hot Missouri sun, a new civil rights movement erupted.

Because Michael Brown died that day, Wesley Brown now heads to the St. Lous County prosecutor's office.

Like Watts and Detroit and Crown Heights, Ferguson became shorthand for American racial injustice and unrest. It also served as a catalyst for a small group of people to rise up and underscore that “Black Lives Matter,” a simple rendering of a human condition that sparked an international movement.

Ferguson laid bare the instruments of institutional racism. White officials had long balanced the town’s books on the backs of African Americans through a devious if banal regimen of fines and court fees. The outrage, the headlines, and the federal investigations compelled the resignations of the police officer who killed Brown, the police chief, a municipal judge, and several other municipal officials.

Bob McCulloch, the long-time St. Louis County prosecutor charged with investigating the young man’s death was made of sterner stuff. He refused to step aside and bring in a special investigator to handle the probe into the shooting—even though his own police officer father had been killed by a black man, even though he had deep connections among Ferguson’s finest. Riots broke out again after a grand jury declined to indict the officer who shot Brown.

Michael Brown was about same age as Wesley Bell’s own son. Bell’s own father was cop. After Brown’s death, Bell began preaching a gospel of community policing. He ran for Ferguson City Council and won. African Americans had the power of the vote secured by humiliation, bloody beatings, and death. That right had atrophied but was newly ascendant. Then the city council member decided to go after the prosecutor’s seat.

Bob McCulloch personified The System. Wesley Bell campaigned on community policing, promises to reform cash bail, and a pledge not to seek the death penalty. He won a passionate and diverse following of local and national supporters.

What he didn’t have, most people thought, was a chance at winning. 

On Tuesday, he polished off McCulloch by a wide margin in Democratic primary. There are no other opponents on the November ballot.

Frederick Douglass had this to say about struggle, progress, and the challenge before Africa’s descendants in America:

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong, which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. …

If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.

Racism Merges into New York’s Ride-Hailing Debate

To fight traffic congestion, the New York City Council plans to vote on new curbs on Uber and Lyft. But some civil rights advocates are not on board. 

screen_shot_2017-07-19_at_4.28.52_pm.png Once upon a time in the city of New York, the subway was the only way to go. There was no contest between fast, reliable, no-frills trains or the gridlock upstairs. For sheer cultural immersion, nothing is more New York than the subway. Couples marry there, women give birth, kids can learn the alphabet . Besides, where else would a pizza-carrying rat catapult into internet stardom? But upstate in Albany, a parade of governors and state lawmakers couldn’t care less about the public transportation problems of a few million little people. Still worse, they had no compunction about siphoning off big bucks from the city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority for more important Empire State concerns like ski resorts . The resulting underground decline has turned New York transit into a travesty, a first-order-of-magnitude hassle of constant delays and breakdowns. Those who can do have other options. Enter Uber. Since the ride-hailing...

Is 'Buy America' at Risk?

A simple question posed by the Federal Transit Administration in a Transportation Department online forum prompts new worries about Trump’s next deregulation juggernaut.

(Maurizio Gambarini/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
President Trump sent European Union leaders reeling with his demands that their countries “buy American” during his combative mid-July tour of the continent. But in the president’s continuing quest to contradict himself and discombobulate opponents, federal transit officials back home are going through an elaborate show of garnering public feedback on a potentially explosive topic that could undermine the Reagan-era Buy America program that helps protect certain American industry jobs. “What is a Federal Project?” is a seemingly innocuous question posted in the Department of Transportation’s “Ideas” online forum, which solicits feedback on prospective initiatives. In this case, the Federal Transit Administration wants to speed up the conception, construction, and delivery of transit projects by recasting how “federal projects” are defined. Federal transit officials intend to “review the thresholds for defining whether a...

Transportation Gridlock in the Northeast Bridges over Troubled Partisan Waters

A new Sierra Club survey finds bipartisan agreement on the region’s public transportation woes and support for stronger efforts to deal with air pollution and climate change.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
screen_shot_2017-07-19_at_4.28.52_pm.png Democrats, Republicans, and independents don’t agree on much in an era when politics is all vinegar and venom. But as the urbanized Northeast Corridor verges on 24/7 gridlock, most people can get over the political divide and agree that getting where they want to go, when they want to get there, is well-nigh impossible. They want to see transportation arteries revitalized, quality public transit options worthy of this century, and serious attention paid to health threats like air pollution and climate change. That’s the upshot of a new Sierra Club survey on transportation modernization in the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic that finds deep, bipartisan impatience with the status quo in 11 states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia—plus resounding interest in concrete regional approaches to dealing with...

Can We Stop Fake News?

The onslaught of bogus stories is just one symptom of American democracy in crisis as the Trump administration battles the news media with classic authoritarian disinformation tactics.

As technology giants and news media titans wrestle with fact-checking, algorithm-tweaking, and outright lies, Americans remain susceptible to a more pernicious threat: fake news. Fake news is just one tool in President Trump’s disinformation toolbox, one that administration officials wield, not only to discredit the news media, but also the judiciary, individual members of Congress, and the intelligence community. It’s a classic tactic that wannabe autocrats deploy to undermine democracy: consolidating power by sowing distrust in major institutions. Political commentators Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Yevgeniy Golovchenko, and Gianni Riotta took up the topic of fake news and authoritarianism at the 2018 Social Media Weekend in New York. Sree Sreenivasan, a former New York City chief digital officer, hosted the June 1–2 conference at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Ben-Ghiat is a New York University professor of history and Italian studies; Golovchenko is a University of...