University of Rochester

Legal Scholars Examine Impact of Social Movements on Society

April 16, 2008

Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres, two experts on the issues of race, gender, and democratic decision-making, will delve into their theory that social movements have the potential to transform society by contributing to the lawmaking process at 3 p.m. Friday, April 18, at the University of Rochester.

Their joint public address for the biannual Frederick Douglass Lectures honors the historic activist and orator Frederick Douglass, and is sponsored by the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies. The event is free and open to the public.

At the lecture, Guinier and Torres will receive the newly established Frederick Douglass Medal from the University. "This presentation of the Frederick Douglass Medal to Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres commends these distinguished scholars and citizens for contributions that reflect the spirit and values of Frederick Douglass," said University President Joel Seligman.

The lecture will be held in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library on the University's River Campus; a reception after the talk will be hosted by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies in the library's Welles-Brown Room.

Guinier, the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard University, was the first African-American woman tenured professor at Harvard. Before joining the faculty in 1998, she was a professor for 10 years at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She presented the first of the Frederick Douglass Lectures in October 2006.

Torres, the Bryant Smith Chair in Law at the University of Texas at Austin, is a leading figure in critical race theory, and a former president of the Association of American Law Schools. He earned his degree at Yale University Law School, and was honored with the 2004 Legal Service Award from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund for work to advance the legal rights of Latinos, among other honors.

Also a graduate of Yale Law School, 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. She 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.

The Frederick Douglass Lectures are intended to recognize scholars who have made "an indelible contribution to the study of African and African-American Studies . . . and to contribute meaningfully to an academic field that speaks uniquely to the issues of diversity, diaspora, nation, race, and identity that are among the most important faced by our institution, our society, and our world." Oxford University Press will publish the remarks by Guinier and Torres as The Frederick Douglass Lectures at the University of Rochester.

Guests for the lecture, titled "Changing the Wind: Notes Toward a Demosprudence of Social Movements," can get information about free parking and shuttles at the River Campus visitors' information booth on Wilson Boulevard.