August 31, 2012


By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. —  Michelle Alexander, associate professor of law at Ohio State University, will give a talk about her book, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," Thursday, Sept. 13, at 8 p.m. in the Forum of the Elaine Langone Center at Bucknell University.

The talk, which is free and open to the public, is the first event in this year's Social Science Colloquium series, "Mass Incarceration in the United States." It also is part of the University's continuing Ralph Spielman Memorial Lecture Series.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in Age of Colorblindness challenges the conventional wisdom that with the election of Barack Obama as president, "our nation has 'triumphed over race,'" according to the author.

"Jim Crow laws were wiped off the books decades ago, but today an astounding percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons or trapped in a permanent, second-class status, much like their grandparents before them who lived under an explicit system of racial control," she said.

Alexander argues that the sudden and dramatic mass incarceration of African American men, primarily through the War on Drugs, has created a new racial under caste — a group of people defined largely by race that is subject to legalized discrimination, scorn, and social exclusion. The old forms of discrimination — in employment, housing, education, and public benefits; denial of the right to vote; and exclusion from jury service — are legal once a person is labeled a felon.

A highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar, Alexander holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law. Prior to joining the Kirwan Institute, she was an associate professor of law at Stanford Law School, where she directed the Civil Rights Clinics.

She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Vanderbilt University. Following law school, she clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the United States Supreme Court, and for Chief Judge Abner Mikva on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

For several years, she served as the director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of northern California, where she helped to lead a national campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement.

In 2005, she won a Soros Justice Fellowship, which supported the writing of her first book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010). Considered one of the top African American books of 2010, it won the NAACP Image Award for "outstanding literary work of non-fiction."

The book has been featured on national radio and television media outlets, including NPR, The Bill Moyers Journal, the Tavis Smiley Show, C-Span Washington Journal, among others. Alexander will be available to sign copies of her book following her talk.

The Spielman Memorial Lectureship at Bucknell was established by the relatives, colleagues, students, and friends of Professor Ralph Spielman in memory of his service to the University from 1958 until his death in 1978. The lectureship emphasizes "Frontiers in Social Science" by bringing to campus a lecturer to describe promising attempts to interpret and open new fields in social science.

Contact: Division of Communications
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