University of Rochester

Lani Guinier, Gerald Torres Speak on Race, Social Change

March 29, 2007

* * * The Frederick Douglass Lectures have been postponed until fall 2007 because of a medical emergency. * * *

Law and civil rights scholars Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres will visit the University of Rochester on April 16 and 17 to offer their visions of how cross-racial coalitions can affect social change. Their public addresses, part of the inaugural year of Frederick Douglass Lectures, honor the historic activist and orator Frederick Douglass and are sponsored by the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies at the University of Rochester.

Torres, the Bryant Smith Chair in Law at the University of Texas at Austin and a leading figure in critical race theory, will speak at 3 p.m. Monday, April 16, in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library on the University of Rochester's River Campus. Guinier, the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard University and a sought-after speaker on issues of race, gender, and democratic decision-making, will talk at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, in the Interfaith Chapel on the University's River Campus. A reception, sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies, will follow; both talks are free and open to the public.

"The motif of these lectures is 'linked fates' and how interdependent different groups are," said Jeffrey Allen Tucker, director of the Frederick Douglass Institute and associate professor of English. Torres will focus on "Linked Fates and Lunch Counter Stories: The Necessity of Collective Action"; Guinier's lecture is titled "Linked Fate: Democratizing Power to Social Change."

Guinier and Torres coauthored The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2003) from a series of lectures they delivered on race in America and how to move toward a society that values difference. When Guinier spoke at the University of Rochester for the first of the Frederick Douglass Lectures in October 2006, she referred to the symbolism of the canary and said, "Use the experience of the canary as a way of making visible a problem that is affecting all of us."

Oxford University Press will publish the comments of Guinier and Torres as The Frederick Douglass Lectures at the University of Rochester. These biannual lectures are intended "to recognize scholars who have made a profound contribution to the study of African or African-American Studies and contributed meaningfully to an academic field that speaks uniquely to the issues of diversity, diaspora, nation, race, and identity that continue to be among the most important faced by our institution, our society, and our world," said Tucker. They also are created to exemplify the spirit and legacy of the Frederick Douglass Institute's namesake: 19th-century abolitionist, orator, and writer, Frederick Douglass.

Torres, who earned his degree at Yale University Law School, is former president of the Association of American Law Schools and an expert in agricultural and environmental law. He served as deputy assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and as counsel to then U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

He was honored with the 2004 Legal Service Award from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund for his work to advance the legal rights of Latinos. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute. He also has been a visiting professor at Harvard and Stanford law schools.

Guinier was the first African-American woman tenured professor at Harvard Law School. Before joining the faculty at Harvard in 1998, she was a professor for 10 years at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Also a graduate of Yale Law School, Guinier came to wide public attention in 1993 when President Bill Clinton nominated her to head the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. After vehement political attacks, Clinton withdrew her nomination. Guinier has written extensively in law review articles, books (including The Tyranny of the Majority, 1994; Becoming Gentlemen: Women, Law Schools and Institutional Change, 1995), and in opinion pieces about affirmative action, gender equity, and other issues.

For more information about the Frederick Douglass Lectures, contact (585) 275-7235 or go to