US Supreme Court and Race

WED, MAR 10, 2010 (1:07:50)

Two Harvard legal scholars discuss the complex and often misunderstood history of how decisions by the United States Supreme Court have affected the legal status of racial minorities in America, and ask if the Supreme Court has been a friend or a foe to African Americans. Conventional wisdom suggests that the high court, throughout its history, has consistently defended racial minorities from discriminatory policies. That interpretation may be more sympathetic than the Court’s actual record warrants.

In a talk at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard Law Professor Michael Klarman suggests that the Supreme Court, more often than not, has been a regressive force on racial issues. Klarman is introduced, and then joined in conversation, by his Harvard Law School colleague Professor Randall Kennedy.

+ BIO: Randall Kennedy

Randall Kennedy is a professor at Harvard Law School where he teaches courses on contracts, freedom of expression, and the regulation of race relations. Mr. Kennedy was born in Columbia, South Carolina. For his education he attended St. Albans School, Princeton University, Oxford University, and Yale Law School.

He served as a law clerk for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the United States Court of Appeals and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. He is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Awarded the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Race, Crime, and the Law, Mr. Kennedy writes for a wide range of scholarly and general interest publications, and sits on the editorial boards of The Nation, Dissent, and The American Prospect. A member of the American Law Institute, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association, Mr. Kennedy was awarded an honorary degree by Haverford College and is a former trustee of Princeton University.

Image courtesy of Martha Stewart.

+ BIO: Michael J. Klarman

Michael J. Klarman is a Kirkland and Ellis Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. An expert on constitutional law and constitutional history with a particular focus on race, he was formerly James Monroe Distinguished Professor of Law as well as the Elizabeth D. and Richard A. Merrill Research Professor and Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He clerked for the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she was on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Klarman is the author of Brown v. Board and the Civil Rights Movement (Oxford University Press, 2007), Unfinished Business: Racial Equality in American History (Oxford University Press, 2007), and From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality (Oxford University Press, 2004), which received the Bancroft Prize in History. Klarman’s articles have appeared in leading law journals including The Michigan Law Review, The Yale Law Journal, The Virginia Law Review, and The Supreme Court Review. He also comments frequently in such publications as the New York Times, the Boston Globe, USA Today, and Time. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009.

Image courtesy of Martha Stewart.

+ BIO: Lawrence Bobo

Lawrence Bobo is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University.

Partner
Museum of African American History
Recommended Lectures