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David Harris

  • What July Fourth Meant To Frederick Douglass

    July 5, 2017

    ...Nearly 80 years after the celebration of the nation’s origins had taken root as annual ritual, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass pointed out in detail the unfinished business that the Declaration espoused. In a speech given in Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852, Douglass rose to the occasion with searing hot rhetoric...The words of Douglass’ speech will be read this year on Monday, July 3rd in Boston Common, as well as other locations around the state, as remembrance of this great democratically inspired literature, but also as reminder of the original solemnity of the day. The public reading of the speech in Boston, which began annually in 2009, is the brain child of David Harris, a longtime civil rights activist, who is also the director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School. “Douglass was one of the nation’s greatest patriots and his words, as much as those of any founder, continue to guide us toward the democracy we want to be," Harris told me recently by email.

  • As celebrities celebrate, legal experts assess the reasons for defeats of Angela Corey and others

    September 1, 2016

    As voters around the country decided the fates of Sens. Marco Rubio and John McCain and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, at least a few observers focused on the primary for Jacksonville’s elected prosecutor. Ten-time Grammy Awards winner John Legend celebrated State Attorney Angela Corey’s loss. So did “Orange Is The New Black” author Piper Kerman and former Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean...Harvard Law School professor Ronald Sullivan said, “Overzealous prosecutors, like Angela Corey, who have resorted to pursuing draconian sentences regardless of the circumstances will soon see themselves being replaced with leaders who have rejected these failed policies of the 1980s and ’90s, and are truly committed to reforming the justice system with proven, evidence-based, equitable solutions that increase public safety.”...David Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute at Harvard Law School, said the election results show that “voters have spoken in no uncertain terms about the kind of change they want to see and it speaks well beyond any single prosecutor to changes across the justice system.”

  • As President Calls For Dialogue On Race, 3 Mass. Parents Highlight ‘Despair,’ Challenges (audio)

    July 13, 2016

    At a memorial service in Dallas Tuesday for five police officers killed last week, President Obama called for Americans to participate in honest dialogue about race. The president said such conversations are the antidote to the violence and despair set off by the killings of two black men last week by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, incidents that proceeded what followed in Dallas. Those seven deaths last week, far from Boston, remain the source of confusion and frustration for many families in Greater Boston. Parents are trying to figure out what to say to children, especially black children, about justice, safety and progress. Three parents discussed these concerns on Morning Edition...David Harris...is African-American and managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School.

  • In anti-lynching plays, a coiled power

    May 24, 2016

    ...The museum performance whet her appetite to continue to stage the plays, and Zier reached out to the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School (HLS), where Managing Director David J. Harris was eager to incorporate art into social justice programming. “It was an easy sell for us,” said Harris. “That these plays were written by women, and the fact that women today are leading so many social movements, especially in communities of color — lots was compelling.”...Held in the Ames Courtroom last month, the performance, “Plays That Don’t Play: The Drama of Lynching” featured the three plays performed by 14 students from the College, HLS, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as one student from Northeastern University. It was an evening (followed by a panel discussion the next day) that Harris described as “unbelievably powerful.”

  • Death Penalty 2015: Lowest number of executions in 25 years, but marked by disability and impairment

    December 23, 2015

    In 2015, America had the lowest number of executions in 25 years, according to a new report released by Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice. But of the 28 people executed, 68% suffered from severe mental disabilities or experienced extreme childhood trauma and abuse.

  • High Court Must Undo Clear Case of Juror Racism (registration)

    September 29, 2015

    An op-ed by Charles J. Ogletree Jr. and David J. Harris. Raise your hand if you believe that a juror could make this statement and still be considered fair and impartial. “I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that’s what that n----- deserved.” There’s no mistaking that this statement was actually made. The juror himself signed a sworn affidavit admitting he made the statement. On Sept. 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a request to review whether the injection of the juror’s racial bias violated the rights to an impartial jury and a fair trial of a man sentenced to death in Georgia. We believe that it did.

  • A presidential perspective on race

    July 27, 2015

    It was a remarkable week for President Obama: On Monday he commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders; on Tuesday he called for sweeping criminal justice reform in an address to the NAACP; and on Thursday he became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison...“It’s shocking and surprising to see this kind of vision coming from the White House,” said David Harris, managing director of Harvard’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. “I can’t imagine any other president having the breadth of knowledge that he displayed. … To the extent that other presidents have used crime as a code for race, this president actually named some of the racial disparities that impact our communities in ways that others haven’t.”

  • HLS report explores potential and limitations of body cameras for police

    June 8, 2015

    The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School has released a report, authored by Chike Croslin '16, Justin Dews, and Jaimie McFarlin '15 of the Harvard Black Law Students Association, titled Independent Lens: Toward Transparency, Accountability, and Effectiveness in Police Tactics. The report explores the potential and limitations of body-worn cameras for police.

  • Proposing a Houston/Marshall Plan for domestic policy

    June 4, 2015

    An op-ed by David Harris and Johanna Wald. On June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall spoke to a crowd of 15,000 at Harvard University’s commencement...“The remedy lies in breaking the vicious circle,” stated George Marshall in the speech. Indeed. We propose to create a new Houston/Marshall Plan (named after civil rights giants Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall), focused on helping communities restore themselves after decades of intentional disinvestment. This new Houston/Marshall Plan will advance strategies, innovations, and solutions designed by those living and working in these neighborhoods. It is their voices that have been routinely ignored or silenced in public policy discussions.

  • Dying While Black and Brown: Hamilton Houston Institute hosts dance performance on incarceration and capital punishment (video)

    March 20, 2015

    On March 6, Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice hosted Dying While Black and Brown, a dance performance focused on capital punishment and the disproportionate numbers of incarcerated people of color. The performance was first commissioned by the San Francisco Equal Justice Society as part of the society’s campaign to restore 14th Amendment protections for victims of discrimination, including those on death row.

  • More than ‘enough is enough’

    December 17, 2014

    An op-ed by Charles J. Ogletree Jr. and David J. Harris. Last week thousands of demonstrators in Greater Boston and throughout the nation voiced their outrage at the decision of two grand juries not to indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men, as well as the corruption and bias embedded in our law enforcement system. As veterans of civil rights struggles spanning nearly a half century, we felt heartened by the reemergence of young people as a force for change. Indeed, we experienced the collective refrain of “Enough is enough” as sweet music. But even as we nodded in agreement, we found ourselves asking a few follow-up questions: When is enough not enough? When are rage and protest necessary, but not sufficient? How do we transform “enough is enough” into “we demand more?”