Michelle Alexander, an acclaimed civil rights lawyer, legal scholar and author, will deliver the 30th annual George E. Kent Lecture on Feb. 21 at Mandel Hall.
Alexander is the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The book challenges the notion that America has “triumphed over race,” arguing that the large-scale incarceration of African Americans has helped create a permanent state of legal discrimination.
The lecture continues a tradition that honors the late George E. Kent, one of the earliest tenured African American professors at the University of Chicago. The event is presented by the Organization of Black Students, in collaboration with the Black Law Students Association and Students for a Free Society, with support from Student Government, the Campus Dialogue Fund and the Office of the Provost.
“The Kent Lecture is a moment to showcase the brilliance of African American luminaries from throughout the country,” said Clarence Okoh, president of the Organization of Black Students. “Every year we search diligently for someone who can engage our campus community in the type of enriched dialogue that lives up to the legacy of Dr. Kent himself. We are excited to host Dr. Michelle Alexander, whose scholarship and civic engagement will captivate our campus community.”
Alexander’s latest work makes the case that many forms of discrimination permitted under old Jim Crow laws—discrimination in housing, employment, education, voting rights and jury service—have become widespread once more as part of society’s treatment of felons. She challenges Americans to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a movement for racial justice.
Alexander holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. Prior to joining the Kirwan Institute, Alexander was an associate professor at Stanford Law School, where she directed the Civil Rights Clinics.
Previously, she served as the director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California, where she helped to lead a national campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement. While an associate at Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baller, she specialized in plaintiff-side class action lawsuits alleging race and gender discrimination.
Doors will open at 5 p.m. for the lecture on Feb. 21, and Alexander’s talk will begin at 5:30 p.m. Mandel Hall is located at 1131 E. 57th St., with entry through the Reynolds Club. Alexander's remarks will be followed by a 30-minute question-and answer period. Admission is free and open to the public.