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Kenneth Mack

  • Guy-Uriel Charles

    Guy-Uriel Charles elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

    May 10, 2022

    Professor Guy-Uriel E. Charles, the Charles Ogletree, Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

  • Opinion: Did Ketanji Brown Jackson rule against Black workers? It’s not so simple.

    February 23, 2022

    An op-ed co-written by Kenneth W. Mack: As President Biden prepares to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, it’s worth pausing to consider the story of Constance Baker Motley, the first African American woman appointed to the federal bench. In 1975, Motley presided over a case in which a White woman, Diane Blank, had filed a class-action suit against the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell for sex discrimination.

  • Zoom screen with three women and one man

    Constance Baker Motley

    February 15, 2022

    Georgetown Law Professor Sheryll Cashin ’89 once asked her mentor, Thurgood Marshall, why he had passed over Constance Baker Motley to succeed him when he…

  • What Fannie Lou Hamer can teach today’s activists

    November 22, 2021

    Book review by Kenneth W. Mack, Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law: The civil rights activist and leader Fannie Lou Hamer spoke truth to power with an authenticity that makes her words, her actions and even her singing seem to have immediate appeal to us. In 1962, Hamer was a Mississippi sharecropper with little formal schooling when she decided to attend a voting rights organizing meeting at a local church. Two years later, she was facing down President Lyndon Johnson and the national civil rights leadership at the Democratic National Convention. ... The historian Keisha N. Blain’s “Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America” employs “a blend of social commentary, biography, and intellectual history” to harness Hamer’s example for the present.

  • Group discussion around a table

    Reading the law

    November 10, 2021

    Harvard Law School’s upper-level reading groups give students the opportunity to dig into unique subjects connected directly — or not — to the law.

  • Civil Rights: Plessy v Ferguson

    June 2, 2021

    Today in our series on civil rights Supreme Court cases, we examine the anticanon decision of Plessy v Ferguson. Steven Luxenberg, Kenneth Mack, Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson walk us through the story of Homer Plessy, the Separate Car Act of 1890, an infamous opinion and a famous dissent.

  • Plessy v. Ferguson at 125

    May 19, 2021

    One hundred and twenty five years after the Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, Harvard Law Professor Kenneth Mack ’91 says there are still lessons to be gleaned from the case.

  • How a decades-long conversation shaped the young United States

    May 17, 2021

    A book review by Kenneth MackAkhil Reed Amar’s “The Words That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840” is the rarest of things — a constitutional romance. Amar, an eminent professor of law and political science at Yale, has great affection for his subject as a text that is worthy of loving engagement by scholars and the public at large. His 700-page narrative covers the “main constitutional episodes” that Americans faced as they revolted against Britain, created a Constitution and Bill of Rights, and built a new nation. Amar argues that the rebellious British subjects sparked a decades-long “constitutional conversation,” which eventually drew in men such as John Adams, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Chief Justice John Marshall. His book appears at a time when the Constitution has been criticized for its suppression of the revolution’s popular impulses, its undemocratic features such as the electoral college, its embeddedness in slavery and its deliberate exclusion of so many from its iconic invocation of “We the People.” Amar’s story is more celebratory, but the strength of his argument depends on whether his central metaphor of a conversation accurately captures what is at stake in this book.

  • The Diane Rehm Book Club: “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” by Isabel Wilkerson

    April 22, 2021

    For the April meeting of The Diane Rehm Book Club, Diane and guests discuss "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents," by Isabel Wilkerson. She is joined by Kenneth Mack, professor of law and affiliate professor of history at Harvard University and author of "Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer"; Suraj Yengde, author of the "Caste Matters" and co-editor of the anthology "The Radical in Ambedkar" and a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School; and Dwight Garner, book critic for The New York Times.

  • Corporations that back voting rights will find it’s good for business, too

    April 21, 2021

    An op-ed by Norman Eisen and Kenneth W. MackSome of our largest businesses are having a political awakening. From Bank of America to Apple to Coca-Cola to Delta Air Lines, corporate boardrooms are speaking out against new laws in Georgia and elsewhere that will disproportionately make it harder for Black voters to participate in elections. As companies decide how to respond to such laws, they would do well to look for inspiration from the civil rights movement of the 20th century. The evidence suggests that weighing in on the side of justice was not only the right thing to do — in many cases, it was also the profitable thing, serving a double bottom line. Recent work by the economist and historian Gavin Wright has documented the substantial, albeit unequal, gains that accrued to Southerners and the businesses that served them, due to the fall of the Jim Crow system. The numbers are striking: “[S]outhern retail business lagged the nation throughout the years of sit-ins and mass boycotts.” But after the businesses desegregated, Wright found, Dallas department stores saw sales increase by over 80 percent just seven years later (from desegregation in 1961 to 1968), while during the same time span a decade before, sales had been flat or slow in growth.

  • Boston-Area Civil Rights Leaders Discuss What’s Next After Chauvin Verdict

    April 21, 2021

    Local advocates are calling for continued police accountability after Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the murder of George Floyd. Featuring Harvard Law Professor Kenneth Mack.

  • How a 1946 Case of Police Brutality Against a Black WWII Veteran Shaped the Fight for Civil Rights

    March 31, 2021

    The murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, accused of killing 46-year-old Black man George Floyd by kneeling on his neck, began March 29. It comes 10 months after the killing sparked ongoing Black Lives Matter protests and a national reckoning over racial equality and the long history of police brutality, especially against non-white people, in America. Chauvin’s trial also takes place about 75 years after a similarly extreme case of police brutality that helped shape the modern civil rights movement, when a Black Army veteran was blinded in police custody after being beaten in the eye with a billy club. The incident, which resulted in a trial over whether excessive and unnecessary force was used, is the subject of a new American Experience documentary, The Blinding of Isaac Woodard, premiering Mar. 30 on PBS...Then, as now, police violence against Black Americans was “routine, unaddressed and overlooked,” and Black WWII veterans were often targets, as Kenneth Mack, a professor of law and history at Harvard University who appears in the PBS documentary, tells TIME.

  • James Stewart

    Filibuster or bust?

    March 10, 2021

    Harvard Law Professor Kenneth Mack ’91 discusses the origins and history of the filibuster, a controversial and powerful political tool.

  • The Current for Feb. 8, 2021

    February 9, 2021

    As former U.S. president Donald Trump's impeachment trial gets underway this week for his role in inciting the U.S. Capitol attack, some say the country's political institutions are at stake. To unpack the issue, Matt Galloway speaks with Ken Mack, the Lawrence D. Biele professor of law and affiliate professor of history at Harvard University, and Karen Tumulty, a political columnist for the Washington Post.

  • Securing public spaces in the wake of Capitol violence

    January 19, 2021

    Sadly, it’s happened before. Throughout history many of the nation’s landmark sites have been targets of attack, from the British razing of Washington during the War of 1812 to the Sept. 11, 2001, assault on the Pentagon. Political violence, at least in contemporary times, has left these places more locked down and less accessible. In the wake of last week’s assault on the Capitol, experts across Harvardare again considering ways to secure such public spaces now and in the future; how added protective measures will affect public access to America’s most sacred shrines of democracy; and how to address potential social and racial inequities arising from increased policing and tightened security around buildings such as the Capitol, often referred to as “the people’s house.” ... Experts see the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, Okla., and the 9/11 terrorist attacks as grim inflection points in the country’s history, moments of deadly violence that led to sweeping new security measures and controls at both the national and local levels. ... “Bollards and planters began going up all over the place, all these things that often had been used at military installations began to appear around public buildings. But at the same time we have maintained a fairly rich tradition of protest in public spaces,” said Harvard historian and legal scholar Kenneth Mack. “There was the closure of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House after [Oklahoma City bomber] Timothy McVeigh’s terrorist act, but Lafayette Square just across the street remained a place for regular, vigorous protests.” Mack, Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and affiliate professor of history, said it has yet to be seen how the events of last week may affect the access to public spaces in the future, but he remains hopeful.

  • President Donald Trump standing between large white columns of the White House.

    Trump impeached

    January 14, 2021

    Five Harvard Law faculty react to the unprecedented second impeachment of President Donald J. Trump.

  • Molly Brady wearing a bright red jacket sits in front of a computer and teaches her class in Zoom

    2020 in pictures

    January 5, 2021

    A look back at the year at HLS.

  • Some free-speech norms are in danger. Maybe that’s a good thing.

    November 9, 2020

    A book review by Kenneth MackWhat’s wrong with the democratic experiment? As the United States faces what many believe are existential threats to its political processes, and fragile political systems around the world slip into new, technologically savvy variants of authoritarianism, many commentators say we are suffering a crisis of democracy. Some point to recent departures from bedrock norms that govern the conduct of government and the role of free speech in civic life, with campus debates over matters such as sexual harassment and unpopular speakers as examples of a new generation that has yet to learn the lessons of its forebears. Others argue that the nation’s political heritage is the problem rather than the solution, pointing to undemocratic governmental features such as the electoral college, as well as recent efforts by groups with declining electoral numbers to gerrymander legislatures, suppress Black and Latino votes, and engage in hardball politics to sustain illegitimate legislative, executive and judicial power. Ellis Cose, the eminent journalist, grapples with both explanations for our present crisis in his pithy and thought-provoking book, “The Short Life and Curious Death of Free Speech in America.” Cose contends that the death of traditional free-speech norms might in fact be a good thing, given our current challenges. That might sound like heresy coming from a veteran journalist, and Cose knows it.