Remembering Renault Robinson, 1942-2023

In July, the world lost a hero when Renault Robinson passed away. A leader who fought against discrimination within the Chicago Police Department, his lasting impact is still felt in the city.

Video still from Cities: Studs Terkel’s Chicago: Robinson chatting with Studs Terkel in 1980

Born on the south side neighborhood of Woodlawn in 1942, Robinson joined the Chicago Police Department in 1964. In 1968, Robinson co-founded the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League (now known as African American Police League). The organization was founded to encourage more Black people to become police officers and to improve the department’s treatment of Black citizens.

But Robinson’s founding of the AAPL came at a price. The League’s advocacy for citizens  led to an increase in civil rights lawsuits against CPD for discrimination and mistreatment. In retaliation, Robinson and other AAPL members were constantly suspended, threatened with dismissal, and given degrading assignments. Robinson was even sent to patrol the alley behind the police station where he worked.

But Robinson stayed on the force until 1983 and continued to speak out against racist policies and actions by CPD. In 1983, he went on to serve as the chairman of Chicago Housing Authority, a position he held until 1987.

Robinson passed away in Chicago in July, and he’s survived by his wife Annette and children, Renault Jr., Brian, Kobie and Kivu.

In this clip from Cities: Studs Terkel’s Chicago (1980), Robinson talks with Studs Terkel about solutions to the crime problems at the Chicago Housing Authority’s Robert Taylor Homes.




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