Black Communities Targeted by Nixon Administration’s War On Drugs

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Since the 1970s, the US has waged an ongoing “war on drugs.” It has been one of the nation’s most costly battles. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, not only to prosecute drug dealers but also to rehabilitate drug addicts. In a statement from 1994, a former Nixon policy adviser, John Ehrlichman, admitted that the Nixon Administration’s War on Drugs was intended to disempower anti-war activists and black communities in the 1970s.

Dan Baum, Angela Bronner Helm, Carey Wedler, and other independent news reporters report how the Nixon Administration developed federal drug policies to “disrupt the black community.” Writing for Harper’s, which broke the story, Baum reports that in conversation with Ehrlichman in 1994, the former Nixon aide told him, “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”


Dan Baum, “Legalize It All. How to Win the War on Drugs,” Harper’s Magazine, April 2016,

Angela Bronner Helm, “Former Nixon Aide Claims ‘War on Drugs’ Invented to Suppress Black People,” The Root, March 22, 2016,

Carey Wedler, “Nixon Advisor Admitted War on Drugs Invented to Crush Anti-War and Black Movements,” The AntiMedia, March 22, 2016,

Student Researcher: Sheila Beasley (College of Marin)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)