Black ExperienceEducation

Famed Scholar Honored for Contributions to Social Justice, Equality

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, whose research and writings have galvanized thinking and action worldwide about race and law, has been honored by Brandeis University with the Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize for outstanding and lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic and religious relations.

Crenshaw received the prize Monday evening at an awards ceremony in Waltham, Massachusetts, as part of a three-day residency at Brandeis. Earlier in the day, she delivered a public lecture, “Race, Reform, Retrenchment Redux: Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality Beyond Post Racialism.”

“Kimberlé Crenshaw is one of the rare scholars whose exceptional academic work has become an important part of dialogue and change inside and outside the academy,” said Brandeis University President Ron Liebowitz. “Her innovative thinking underscores important values associated with the Gittler Prize and with our university.”

Devon Carbado, UCLA law professor and African American Policy Forum board member, said Crenshaw “organically combines sophisticated theoretical analysis, brilliant cultural and political commentary, on-the-ground experiential knowledge, and complex legal argumentation to describe, contest, and fashion remedies for some of the most pressing social problems of our time.”

Crenshaw coined the term “illuminating the oppression of women of color” nearly 30 years ago to describe the exclusion of Black women from feminist theory and policy discourse directed against racism.

She argued in an article published in the University of Chicago Law Forum that the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated does not reflect the interaction of race and gender and is greater than the sum of both.

In 2015, Crenshaw launched the Say Her Name campaign, aimed at calling attention to police violence against Black women, and bringing together the families of Black women killed by police to heal and advocate for accountability for their lost loved ones.

“Kimberlé Crenshaw, and the Say Her Name platform has given me and many other families a voice,” said Rhanda Dormeus, mother of Korryn Gaines, who was killed by Baltimore police in 2016. “She has shed light on the countless women and their families who’ve gone unnoticed, in comparison to their male counterparts, in numbers of unnecessary police involved shootings. Dr. Crenshaw has been my lifeline.”

Crenshaw, director of the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies she founded in 2011, also serves as co-founder and executive director of the New York City-based African American Policy Forum, a think tank that promotes efforts to dismantle structural inequality. In addition, she’s the co-editor of “Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement,” the leading anthology on the subject.

“Kimberlé Crenshaw is a gifted legal theorist and an extremely innovative social activist whose work is grounded in the lives of those who are most marginalized in society,” said Luke Harris, African American Policy Forum co-founder. “From her brilliant law journal articles to the Black Girls Matter Report; from the #SayHerName campaign to the extraordinary town hall meetings that AAPF sponsors in cities across America her work fully embodies what it means to see intersectionality in action.”

The Gittler Prize is hosted by the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life on behalf of the Office of the President of Brandeis University. Previous winners of the prize include Martha Minow (2015) and Gustavo Gutiérrez (2014).

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