Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, will deliver keynote address for the UNC Asheville’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Week

Press release from UNC Asheville: 

Michelle Alexander, author of the best-seller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, will deliver the keynote address for the UNC Asheville’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Week.

Alexander’s talk is free and open to everyone, with no tickets required, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, in Kimmel Arena at UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center. The doors will open at 6 p.m. and seating is first-come, first-served. This event is presented by UNC Asheville with support from the Blue Ridge District of United Methodist Church.

The New Jim Crow “is simply unparalleled in its clear and penetrating treatment of the intersection of race and American politics and law,” says Patrick Bahls, professor of mathematics who directs UNC Asheville’s Honors Program and will moderate the audience Q&A at Alexander’s talk. “For the past four years, I’ve taught from this book in my senior seminar class, Cultivating Global Citizenship, and it never fails to leave a lasting mark,” says Bahls, who also is co-producing an off-campus dramatic reading of prison writings as part of the lead-up to Alexander’s talk (see list of related events below).

The research and analysis in Alexander’s book has drawn wide acclaim. Forbes wrote that The New Jim Crow “offers a devastating account of a legal system doing its job perfectly well. We have simply replaced one caste system (Jim Crow) for another one (imprisonment, parole, detention) that keeps the majority of minorities in a permanent state of disenfranchisement. Alexander looks in detail at what economists usually miss, namely the entire legal structure of the courts, parole, probation and laws that effectively turn a perpetrator of a crime into a moral outlaw who is unworthy of rehabilitation.” And Ronald Hampton, the now-retired executive director of the National Police Association said the book “should be required reading for anyone working for real change in the criminal justice system.”

An attorney and advocate, Alexander graduated from Stanford Law School and then clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice Harry Blackmun. She went on to direct the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California where she launched the “DWB (driving while black or brown) Campaign” to challenge racial profiling by law enforcement agencies. In 2005, she won a Soros Justice Fellowship which supported the writing of The New Jim Crow, and that same year, she entered academia, accepting a joint appointment at The Ohio State University, teaching at Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and at the Moritz College of Law.

Alexander later taught at a number of other universities including Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor of law and directed the Civil Rights Clinics. She is now visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, where she holds a five-year appointment to the faculty that will continue through 2021.

Alexander also is working on two new books. The first, planned for release in the spring of 2018, is a personal reflection on changes in her own thinking – from believing that justice can be won through litigation and piecemeal policy reform, to her current belief that a true revolution of moral and spiritual values is required in America. The second book, planned for the fall of 2018, will be an edited collection of essays, sermons and speeches from justice advocates and faith leaders from a wide range of backgrounds.

Backpacks are not allowed in Kimmel Arena and bags will be checked at the door. No outside food and drink are allowed. For more information, contact UNC Asheville Events & Conferences Office at 828-251-6853 or visit events.unca.edu.

Related Community Events

Dec. 13 – Screening/Discussion – The documentary 13th, by director Ava DuVernay, which explores the intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the U.S., will be screened and discussed. This event, coordinated by UNC Asheville graduate JaNesha Slaughter, is co-sponsored by the university’s Honors Program and Democracy North Carolina. Free and open to everyone, 6-9 p.m. at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center, 285 Livingston St., Asheville.

Jan. 17 – Dramatic Reading – On The Row, from the Northwest Arkansas Prison Project, features the writing of death row inmates in Arkansas, and this will be its second-ever road production. The reading will be presented by Asheville-area actors, including three UNC Asheville students. This event is co-produced by UNC Asheville faculty members Patrick Bahls and Jessica Pisano, with support from the university’s Department of English. Director David Joliffe, professor of English at the University of Arkansas, will lead an audience Q&A after the reading. Free and open to everyone from 7-9 p.m. at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center, 285 Livingston St., Asheville.

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