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Kenneth Mack

  • Thurgood Marshall: The soundtrack of their lives

    October 2, 2017

    Thurgood Marshall is revered as a titan of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the architect of the landmark court case that ended legal segregation in America’s public schools, and the first African-American Supreme Court justice. Yet for five of his former law clerks gathered Wednesday at Harvard Law School (HLS), he was more than that. For Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Marshall was a messenger of hope and courage to African-Americans who endured the injustices of the Jim Crow South...For Randall Kennedy, Michael R. Klein Professor of Law, who clerked for Marshall in the ’80s, the associate justice was a source of pride, lifting the spirits and the consciousness of black Americans who were treated as second-class citizens...For Martha Minow, former dean of Harvard Law School, Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence, and University Distinguished Service Professor, who also clerked for Marshall, he was the embodiment of a deep commitment to social justice and faith in the power of the rule of law to bring equal rights to all eventually...The panel was moderated by Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law, director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, and professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Kenneth Mack, the Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law...“He was a formidable person in all respects,” recalled another former clerk, William Fisher, WilmerHale Professor of Intellectual Property Law and faculty director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society...Carol Steiker, Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law and Special Adviser for Public Service, said she developed a lifelong interest in death penalty law during her clerkship with Marshall.

  • Thurgood Marshall panelists

    Thurgood Marshall: The soundtrack of their lives

    September 29, 2017

    Thurgood Marshall is revered as a titan of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the architect of the landmark court case that ended legal segregation in America’s public schools, and the first African-American Supreme Court justice. Yet for five of his former law clerks gathered Wednesday at Harvard Law School, he was more than that.

  • Dean of Yale Law School: Campus Free Speech Is Not Up for Debate

    July 25, 2017

    In this, the summer of our discontent, many college presidents are breathing a sigh of relief that they made it through a politically fraught spring without their campuses erupting...Law deans, in sharp contrast, have reason to be cheery. Their campuses have been largely exempt from ugly free-speech incidents like these...There may be a reason why law students haven't resorted to the extreme tactics we've seen on college campuses: their training. Law school conditions you to know the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness...The rituals of respect shown inside and outside the courtroom come from this training. Those rituals are so powerful that they can trump even the deepest divides. As Kenneth Mack recounts in his book Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer, Thurgood Marshall was able to do things in court that a black man could never do in any other forum, like subjecting a white woman to cross-examination.

  • Federalism, Explained

    March 27, 2017

    ...Federalism is part of our government’s design — a vertical sharing of power between the national and state governments. Our Constitution outlines a separation of powers between the federal government’s three branches. The 10th Amendment holds onto the remaining balance of power for the states, which is often referred to as states’ rights. With the national government now in a Republican grip and President Trump rolling out executive orders, a conversation has begun about what a progressive federalism makeover might look like. Federalism — a vertical, ambiguous division of power — doesn’t have a particular political valence, says Kenneth Mack, a legal historian at Harvard Law School.

  • Can History Prepare Us for the Trump Presidency?

    January 23, 2017

    ...Politico Magazine asked historians to identify which moments in history most resemble this one, and what those moments can teach us about the presidency and the country today...Kenneth W. Mack, professor of law and affiliate professor of history at Harvard University...It is perilous, in the extreme, to compare our present to any past moment. But that has not stopped many commentators, and our new president himself, from invoking the inauguration of Andrew Jackson as historical precedent. There are real reasons for this. Jackson is, depending whom you ask, either our first populist president or a border ruffian who left us the Trail of Tears and a financial crisis that bankrupted ordinary Americans. He was, of course, both. Less prominent has been the comparison between Donald Trump and Andrew Johnson, the first president to be impeached in the House. Both of these comparisons, however, are difficult.

  • Lessons Taught: Obama’s Legacy as a Historian

    January 19, 2017

    Around noon on Friday, the presidency of Barack Obama will officially be history, and for months the news media has been awash in considerations of the first African-American president’s legacy. But there’s one aspect of his record that has received less attention: his legacy as a historian...Kenneth Mack, a historian at Harvard Law School who has known Mr. Obama since they were classmates there, said that he was “the first president who has really been able to wrap the history of the civil rights movement into the fabric of American history,” while also pointedly hailing other marginalized groups’ push for inclusion in “We the people.” “It’s not just about commemorating the heroes of the past,” Mr. Mack said, “but also things Americans disagreed about, and still disagree about.”

  • Diversity and U.S. Legal History

    December 7, 2016

    During the fall 2016 semester, a group of leading scholars came together at Harvard Law School for the lecture series, "Diversity and US Legal History," which was sponsored by Dean Martha Minow and organized by Professor Mark Tushnet, who also designed a reading group to complement the lectures.

  • Austin Hall

    Mack, Rubenstein elected members of the American Law Institute

    November 23, 2016

    The American Law Institute has elected HLS Professors Kenneth Mack ‘91 and William Rubenstein ’86 as members.

  • CBA 2016: Turning Vision into Action

    September 30, 2016

    Over 800 alumni returned to Harvard Law School for the fourth Celebration of Black Alumni (CBA), Turning Vision into Action. The event brought together generations of black alumni to reconnect with old friends, network with new ones and take part in compelling discussions about the challenges and opportunities in local, national and global communities.

  • Green Mountains racial history isn’t black and white

    August 4, 2016

    ...Following Whitfield, fellow scholar Kenneth Mack brought the past into the present. Mack, a Harvard Law School classmate of President Barack Obama, now teaches at his alma mater. But racial challenges persist: Last fall, someone defaced portraits of Mack and other black professors with electrical tape. "There's a lot of work to be done," the educator said. That's one reason Mack has written "Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer," a history of the pioneering African-Americans who first fought for equality. "It is about a group of men and women who changed America," he told a Woodstock audience. "The past is more complicated than we think it is, and it helps us understand the present is more complicated than we think it is. To see what I'm getting at, you've got to hear the stories."

  • Bookstock Speaker, Professor: Race Issue Still Unsolved

    July 28, 2016

    When Kenneth Mack was a student at Harvard Law School in the 1980s, the campus was a protest ground. It was a time when students and faculty strongly disagreed with each other — a time when the majority of professors were white men. Mack attended Harvard with Barack Obama. They were in the same class together and worked on the independent, student-run Harvard Law Review their second and third years...Mack will be in Woodstock to speak on Saturday for the annual Bookstock literary festival — a three-day event. He’ll be talking about his book, “Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer,” at 3 p.m.

  • What Are Obama’s Post-Presidency Plans?

    July 6, 2016

    Harvard Law Professor Kenneth Mack on President Obama's post presidency plans.

  • The 14th Amendment (audio)

    May 18, 2016

    Passed by Congress 150 years ago (thanks in large part to Maine’s own William Pitt Fessenden), learn about its history and why it is cited in more litigation than any other amendment. Guests: Kenneth W. Mack, Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law and Affiliate Professor of History, Harvard University. Patrick Rael, Professor of History, Bowdoin College.

  • Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Beloved Radical

    February 29, 2016

    A book review by Kenneth Mack. During her long and contentious life that spanned much of the twentieth century, Pauli Murray (1910–1985) involved herself in nearly every progressive cause she could find. Yet the contributions of this black woman writer, activist, civil rights lawyer, feminist theorist, and Episcopal priest have largely escaped public attention. Murray earned a reputation as an idealist who saw the world differently from many of the activists who surrounded her. She also walked away from several important organizations and movements when they were at the height of their influence. At the same time, her actions have seemed prescient to those involved in many of the social movements that have subsequently claimed a piece of her legacy. Through her friendships and writings, Murray left a long list of people deeply influenced by her, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, social activist Marian Wright Edelman, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Murray’s life story deserves to be made available to the larger public, but how does one do so in a way that honors her own obdurate unwillingness to be reduced to any clear set of vectors—to be, in effect, agreeable?

  • Case for reparation gains international force

    February 26, 2016

    During a talk Monday at Harvard Law School, Sir Hilary Beckles, a distinguished historian, scholar, and activist from Barbados, made the case for reparations, a discussion that has been re-energized in the U.S. by the Black Lives Matter movement .

  • Case for reparation gains international force

    February 26, 2016

    Forty acres and a mule. The order by Union General William T. Sherman in January 1865, just after the Civil War ended, to offer some recompense to newly freed slaves for the harms they had suffered was a radical, tantalizing promise that never came to be. More than 150 years later, the question of whether nations that benefited from the African slave trade between the 16th and 19th centuries bear a responsibility to provide financial reparations for their crimes — as well as the lasting economic, social, and political damage they caused — remains unsettled. Many political and Civil Rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., have tried to gain traction for the idea periodically over the years, without much success...“This is not about retribution and anger, it’s about atonement; it’s about the building of bridges across lines of moral justice,” said Sir Hilary Beckles, a distinguished historian, scholar, and activist from Barbados, during a talk Monday at Harvard Law School...[Kenneth] Mack and [Annette] Gordon-Reed noted the many real-world opportunities in Boston and across the United States that exist right now for HLS students to facilitate getting reparations for black people through the legal system. “All of us derive a present-day benefit from the oppression, the degradation of human beings. And what should we do as an institution to make reparations for that” is what should be on everyone’s mind in thinking broadly about the concept of reparations, said Mack.

  • HLS Panel Encourages Reparative Justice Over Buried History

    February 23, 2016

    At a time when Harvard finds itself debating the ways controversial history is remembered on campus, Caribbean historian Hilary M. Beckles told a Harvard Law School audience the best way to deal with a thorny past is confronting it head on. “There’s no point in burying the legacy and memories,” Beckles said. “Let us bring everything to the surface and find a way forward through all of this.” Beckles was the keynote speaker at a panel discussion on reparatory justice for Caribbean countries that facilitated the slave trade, and was joined by other Harvard professors on the panel in the Law School’s Ames courtroom..Alexander J. Clayborne, a third-year Law School student who has helped organize protests, attended the event and said he found the talk “powerful,” especially as it pertained to both global and current events at Harvard...Professors Annette Gordon-Reed, Kenneth W. Mack, and Vincent Brown also participated in the panel.

  • Grad Student Lecture Series Asks Audience to Think Differently

    February 8, 2016

    Student-nominated speakers from across Harvard presented TED-talk style mini-lectures at the sixth annual “Lectures that Last” in front of a packed Memorial Church audience Saturday evening. With topics ranging from bilingualism to successful marriages, and from racial inclusion to economic development, the professors and deans on the stage challenged the audience to think differently about events in their everyday lives. The event was targeted for graduate students across the Harvard...In a speech that touched on recent race-related controversies at Harvard Law School, Law professor Kenneth W. Mack delved into the definition of inclusion. Some Law school students “have called for things that constitute a fundamental challenge to the rules that govern a University,” he said. “I think that those kinds of questions and those kinds of problems are entirely worthy of our attention.”

  • Greenhouse Talks ‘He Said, She Said’ Journalism

    November 19, 2015

    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former Crimson editor Linda J. Greenhouse ’68 gave the second of three lectures in her series “Just a Journalist: Reflections on Journalism, Life, and the Spaces Between” on Wednesday. In her lecture, titled “Stories,” Greenhouse argued that the media’s overemphasis on objectivity diminishes its ability to present issues accurately. Greenhouse said there are several disturbing trends in the way stories are currently reported. For example, she described the way that journalists distance themselves from their work through tactics such as putting something they believe to be true in the words of someone else....The lecture series is sponsored by Harvard’s Graduate Program in American Studies. In his introduction to the talk, Harvard Law School professor Kenneth W. Mack praised Greenhouse’s deft reporting on the Supreme Court, coverage for which she is well known. “She’s someone that’s not shy about both informing us and making us think when she writes,” Mack said.

  • With three steps forward and two back, citizenship denial exemplifies ‘US mambo’ (video)

    July 23, 2015

    Maria Hinojosa, Ron Christie, Kenneth Mack, and Efrén C. Olivares join Melissa Harris-Perry to consider why some babies born in Texas are being denied birth certificates - even though the 14th Amendment should guarantee their citizenship.

  • For President Obama, a fourth quarter surge (video)

    July 23, 2015

    Melissa Harris-Perry and her panel break [including Professor Kenneth Mack] down President Obama's unprecedented week, in which he addressed criminal justice reform, foreign policy, and more.

  • Pres. Obama: ‘Drugging women for sex is rape’ (video)

    July 17, 2015

    Harvard Law School Professor Kenneth Mack weighs in on President Obama's unprecedented remarks about rape allegations surrounding Bill Cosby.

  • An Interview with Kenneth W. Mack, Inaugural Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law

    February 20, 2015

    Today’s interview is a guest post by Liah Love Caravalho, a program specialist in the Office of Legislative and External Relations of the Law Library of Congress. Below, Liah provides an interview with Kenneth W. Mack, inaugural Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law at Harvard University. Prof. Mack was a speaker at the 2013 Library of Congress National Book Festival, where he discussed his book, Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer. He is also the co-editor of The New Black: What Has Changed–and What Has Not–with Race in America. Please share your educational and academic background and specifically what made you decide that law was your true vocation? I started my professional life as an electrical engineer, designing computer chips at Bell Laboratories in the late 1980s after my graduation from Drexel University. I went to law school because I wanted to try something different. I liked technology, but I didn’t feel as though it was my life’s passion. This was, of course, before the development of the World Wide Web, social media, bio-engineering and other fields that now make technology seem like the place to be. I thought that law was my true calling almost from the day I started Harvard Law School. We seemed to be grappling with problems of inequality, politics, economics, policy and history–although we were doing it using lawyers’ tools. It was one of the most exciting periods in my life, and it just seemed completely different than engineering.

  • Five myths about Valerie Jarrett

    November 17, 2014

    Valerie Jarrett is the most talked-about White House aide in Washington — and that’s not always a good thing. Jarrett has come under attack after the midterm elections, with critics charging that she wields too much influence over her boss. Part of her mystique stems from the fact that, as other top aides have come and gone, Jarrett has survived. Her longevity and proximity to President Obama and Michelle Obama have made her something of a Beltway legend — and have conjured up a series of misconceptions about her...Complaints about presidential advisers have a long tradition. “In almost every presidency you can name a powerful White House figure who had informal power of one kind or another that was the subject of dispute,” said Kenneth Mack, a Harvard historian. “Sherman Adams had an immense amount of power in Eisenhower’s White House; same with Harry Hopkins and Franklin Roosevelt.”

  • It’s Not Obama, It’s Just the Sixth Year

    November 6, 2014

    An op-ed by Kenneth W. Mack. If you want to know who to blame for any number of global and domestic crises, there is one simple answer, according to many critics: Barack Obama. The tide turned against many Democratic Congressional candidates in this year’s mid-term elections largely, some claim, because of President Obama’s relatively low approval ratings. Critics have charged Obama with indecision in the face of crises ranging from ISIS to Ebola. The seeming drift began soon after his second inaugural address – delivered only last year – when his ambitious call to collective action was quickly overtaken by a series of controversies ranging from the NSA surveillance leaks to the botched rollout of healthcare.gov. Yet a quick look back at history complicates the notion that these challenges are rooted in President Obama’s individual leadership deficiencies. It also illuminates a factor that does, indeed, make this president’s situation unique: the often-ignored fact that he is America’s first black president.

  • 50 years with the Civil Rights Act of 1964

    October 22, 2014

    In a panel discussion at Harvard Law School in October commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Professor Kenneth W. Mack, characterized the legislation as…

  • No Coward on Race

    September 29, 2014

    The other day, I attended an investiture ceremony for Robert Wilkins, an African-American judge recently appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. At the ceremony, the Harvard Law Professor Ken Mack spoke about some of Judge Wilkins’s forebears—in particular, Robert Terrell, the first black federal judge, appointed in 1910, and William Henry Hastie, the first black federal Court of Appeals judge, appointed in 1949. These men served under, and swore to enforce, a federal Constitution that blessed racial segregation as “separate but equal.” As Mack said, Judges Terrell and Hastie had to be fair and just in a world that was neither fair nor just to them. Mack did not say but plainly implied that black judges today face a similar challenge—different in degree, to be sure, but not in kind.

  • D.C. Circuit Judge Robert Wilkins Sworn In

    September 15, 2014

    Judge Robert Wilkins was formally sworn in on Friday as the 61st judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit at a ceremony dedicated to the African American judges who preceded Wilkins on the bench...Four of Wilkins’ friends and former colleagues spoke. Kenneth Mack, a professor at Harvard Law School and a friend of Wilkins since the two were law students at Harvard, spoke about Hastie, Robinson and the legacy of other black federal judges in history, who strived to deliver justice at a time when they faced discrimination outside the courthouse. Their service meant that Wilkins “would not be faced with the kinds of dilemmas that they faced every day,” he said.

  • Mack Chair lecture - Sit ins 50 years ago

    Kenneth Mack reappraises the sit-in cases, 50 years later (video)

    May 13, 2014

    Harvard Law School Professor Kenneth Mack ‘91 delivered a talk, “The Sit-In Cases After Fifty Years: A Reappraisal,” on the occasion of his appointment as the inaugural Lawrence Biele Professor of Law.

  • The Green Bag recognizes HLS faculty, alums for ‘Exemplary Legal Writing’

    January 17, 2014

    A number of Harvard Law School faculty and alumni were included on Green Bag’s 2013 list of “Exemplary Legal Writing.” The list was compiled from nominees based on the votes of the journal’s Board of Advisers, which includes members of the state and federal judiciaries, private law firms, the news media and academia.

  • Illustration

    Recent Faculty Books – Winter 2014

    January 1, 2014

    “The New Black: What Has Changed—and What Has Not—with Race in America,” edited by Professor Kenneth W. Mack ’91 and Guy-Uriel Charles (New Press). The volume presents essays that consider questions that look beyond the main focus of the civil rights era: to lessen inequality between black people and white people. The contributors, including HLS Professor Lani Guinier, write on topics ranging from group identity to anti-discrimination law to implicit racial biases, revealing often overlooked issues of race and justice in a supposed post-racial society.

  • Mack delivers Supreme Court lecture as part of historical series

    November 15, 2013

    On Oct. 23, Professor Kenneth Mack ‘91 delivered a lecture at the Supreme Court as part of the Supreme Court Historical Society’s 2013 Leon Silverman Lecture Series. This year’s theme was “Litigants in landmark Supreme Court cases of the 20th century.”

  • The Transformations of Morton Horwitz

    July 1, 2013

    For a young law student arriving at Harvard Law School in the fall of 1988, Morton Horwitz [’67] seemed to encapsulate everything that I (no doubt, naively) expected to see in a Harvard professor. Among the students, he was widely known as “Mort the Tort,” for the passion that he brought to the class with which he was most widely identified.

  • Tomiko Brown-Nagin

    Tomiko Brown-Nagin discusses the new Law and History Program of Study at HLS

    May 17, 2013

    This semester, Harvard Law School launched the Law and History program of study, which is headed by two faculty leaders: Professor Tomiko Brown-Nagin, who is also a Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Professor Kenneth Mack. In a Q&A, Brown-Nagin discusses the origins and goals of the new program of study as well as her own scholarship.

  • Panel discussion at Harvard University

    HLS scholars in the Harvard Gazette: America at a crossroads

    October 24, 2012

    At stake in the next election is nothing less than a redefinition of America’s priorities, according to Harvard scholars taking part in a panel discussion at Harvard's Barker Center. The panel which explored law, history, and the 2012 election, included moderator Jill Lepore and panelists Alex Keyssar, Elizabeth Hinton, and HLS Professors Annette Gordon-Reed, Kenneth Mack, and Jed Shugerman

  • Illustration

    The Long View

    October 2, 2012

    As two HLS graduates are vying to lead the United States, we asked six legal historians on the faculty to reflect on the connections between legal education and leadership.

  • Most Likely to Succeed?

    October 1, 2012

    For the first time in the history of U.S. presidential elections, both candidates of the major parties are graduates of Harvard Law School. Alumni remember the two presidential candidates as students.

  • The Balancing Act

    May 10, 2012

    In 1932, in a Philadelphia courtroom, a defense attorney representing a man accused of murder cross-examined a police officer. There was nothing unusual about this scene, except that the defense attorney, Raymond Pace Alexander ’23, was black, and the officer he was aggressively questioning was white. This scene is one of many dramatic moments in the new book by HLS Professor Kenneth Mack ’91, “Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer.”

  • Mack on the History News Network: Progressives are disenchanted with Obama—Abolitionists were disenchanted with Lincoln

    July 12, 2011

    In his July 10 op-ed for George Mason University’s History News Network, Harvard Law School Professor Kenneth W. Mack ’91 assesses the presidency of Barack Obama ’91, comparing it to that of Abraham Lincoln in terms of each president’s respective policy decisions.

  • Mack receives honorary degree

    June 16, 2010

    Harvard Law School Professor Kenneth Mack ’91 received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from Harrisburg University of Science and Technology during a commencement ceremony on May 20 in Harrisburg, Pa. Mack also delivered the commencement address.

  • Professor Kenneth Mack ’91

    Mack delivers talk on NAACP at Library of Congress symposium (video)

    March 18, 2010

    The symposium "The NAACP: Reflections on the First 100 Years," explored both the history of the NAACP, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009, and its future. The Feb. 26 event was held at the library’s Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C.

  • Black and Crimson

    February 11, 2010

    Charles Hamilton Houston ’22 S.J.D. ’23, Raymond Pace Alexander ’23, Ben Davis ’29 and William Hastie ’30 S.J.D. ’33—all of these black civil rights attorneys graduated from Harvard Law School within a 10-year period.

  • Professors Michael Klarman and Kenneth Mack '91

    Klarman and Mack on race and the Supreme Court

    February 8, 2010

    Harvard Law School Professors Michael Klarman and Kenneth Mack ’91 both participated in the SCOTUS Blog’s commentary on Race and the Supreme Court. The Blog’s program is in celebration of Black History Month.

  • Professor Kenneth Mack ’91

    The Slugfest, in Historical Perspective

    July 25, 2008

    Some say the Clinton-Obama fight reflects a historical tension between blacks and women in the struggle for equality. A legal historian says the truth is not so simple—and far more interesting.

  • Hearsay: Faculty Short Takes Summer 2008

    July 1, 2008

    Credit: Wes Duvall From left: Zittrain, Tribe, Heymann, Palfrey, Mack, Goldsmith, and Stuntz The Laws in Wartime Professor Jack Goldsmith
    Slate Magazine, April

  • Mary Ann Glendon

    Faculty News Spring 2004

    June 1, 2004

    Credit: Justin Ide/Harvard News Office Professor Mary Ann Glendon Glendon Wins Inaugural Bradley Prize
    In October, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation awarded Professor…

  • HLS Appoints New Faculty

    September 28, 2000

    Credit: Richard Chase In addition to Janet Halley, HLS has appointed five new professors to the faculty, the largest addition of new faculty members during…