Relieving fears at Harvard and elsewhere that it might strike down the use of race in admissions, the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s affirmative action program in the case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin...Paul professor of constitutional law Tomiko Brown-Nagin called the decision “a stunning win for the University and a reversal of fortune for affirmative action’s detractors.” Laurence Tribe, Loeb University Professor and professor of constitutional law, commented that, "Today’s decision in Fisher v. Texas means that race-conscious affirmative action programs in higher education will be upheld as long as they follow the Court's guidelines for avoiding crude racial quotas and for fine-tuning those programs over time on the basis of intelligently articulated educational philosophies targeting the many dimensions of diversity, as Harvard’s programs of affirmative action have taken great care to do.
Justice Louis D. Brandeis: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of his Confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court
March 31, 2016
In honor of the centennial anniversary of Louis D. Brandeis' confirmation to the United States Supreme Court, Harvard Law School and the Harvard Law Library are celebrating his relationship with the school, as a student, a devoted alumnus, and as a Supreme Court Justice employing and mentoring HLS graduates.
Harvard Corporation agrees to retire HLS shield
March 14, 2016
The Harvard Corporation has approved the recommendation of the Harvard Law School Shield Committee to retire the HLS shield, which is modeled on the family crest of an 18th century slaveholder.
Law School committee recommends retiring current shield
March 4, 2016
A committee of Harvard Law School faculty, students, alumni, and staff established in November by Dean Martha Minow has recommended to the Harvard Corporation that the HLS shield — which is modeled on the family crest of an 18th century slaveholder — no longer be the official symbol of Harvard Law School.
Protesters Want Qualitative Diversity on Campus
December 1, 2015
An op-ed by Tomiko Brown-Nagin. This past week an unknown perpetrator vandalized the portraits of Harvard Law School’s black faculty members, mine included. Many students, colleagues, and friends responded to the defacement by expressing gratitude for the contributions that my colleagues and I make to the law school. I cherished these reactions for what they conveyed about my relationships with students, friends, and colleagues. But the vandalism had not wounded me. Coming of age in the Deep South two decades after Brown v. Board of Education, I encountered and contested many varieties of racism: the occasional epithet, intermittent harassment, social isolation, the flattening-out of my personhood into a single attribute—skin color—and the economic disadvantages imposed by Jim Crow. As a result of these experiences, I developed a thick skin and other attributes vital to a happy and productive life...Students of the current generation are drilling down on the qualitative aspects of diversity. Their critique of campus life poses a profound challenge to those who have never seriously contemplated how inclusion might or should change institutional practices inside the classroom and outside of it. Judging from the concerns expressed by groups on many different campuses, I gather that students hope to achieve four major components of qualitative diversity: representation, voice, community, and accountability.
Committee exploring whether Harvard Law School shield should be changed
November 30, 2015
Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow has announced the creation of a committee to research if the school should continue to use its current shield. The shield is the coat of arms of the family of Isaac Royall, whose bequest endowed the first professorship of law at Harvard.
Harvard Law School Will Reconsider Its Controversial Seal
November 30, 2015
On the heels of an incident of racially-charged vandalism on campus, Harvard Law School Dean Martha L. Minow has appointed a committee to reconsider the school’s controversial seal—the crest of the former slaveholding Royall family that endowed Harvard’s first law professorship in the 19th century...Law professor Bruce H. Mann will serve as the chair of the committee, according to Minow’s email. Mann will be joined by Law professors Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Annette Gordon-Reed, Janet E. Halley, and Samuel Moyn...Two students and an alumnus will also serve on the committee.
Landmark Cases: Brown v. Board of Education (video)
November 24, 2015
Tomiko Brown-Nagin analyzes Brown v. Board of Education in C-Span's Landmark Cases series.
Portraits of black faculty defaced at Harvard law building
November 20, 2015
Harvard University police are investigating a possible hate crime at the law school after someone covered portraits of black faculty members in tape, according to university officials. Some photographs, housed in Wasserstein Hall on the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus, were defaced with strips of black tape and discovered Thursday morning...Harvard Law School students quickly rallied in solidarity with their professors. A.J. Clayborne, who will graduate in 2016, told CNN that the response on campus was "fairly overwhelming" and that students "are shocked." He said that students met to organize in light of the incident..."There has been an outpouring of warm wishes for the affected faculty from Harvard Law students, some of whom posted signed messages of support," said Dr. Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a professor of constitutional law at the school, in a statement to CNN. "I am so proud of the students for reacting with love and kindness, for showing leadership, and for valuing inclusion."..."I was shocked to see portraits of black faculty members defaced today in an apparent response to the peaceful protest organized by Harvard's black students on yesterday," said Dr. Ronald Sullivan Jr., who is the director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute. "My shock and dismay, however, were replaced with joy and admiration when I saw the lovely notes of affirmation and appreciation that Harvard law students placed on our portraits."
Faculty Books In Brief—Fall 2015
October 5, 2015
“Choosing Not to Choose: Understanding the Value of Choice,” by Professor Cass R. Sunstein ’78 (Oxford). Choice, while a symbol of freedom, can also be a burden: If we had to choose all the time, asserts the author, we’d be overwhelmed. Indeed, Sunstein argues that in many instances, not choosing could benefit us—for example, if mortgages could be automatically refinanced when interest rates drop significantly.
Facing Admissions Scrutiny, Harvard Has Much at Stake
September 3, 2015
As Harvard moves into the new academic year, it faces mounting scrutiny into an aspect of its admission process that administrators have long held is central to fostering diversity in its student body—race-based affirmative action...“What Harvard stands to lose...is the most efficient and direct route to achieving racial diversity,” said Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a professor at Harvard Law School and expert in education law and policy. Other methods universities can use to foster campus diversity, such as ramping up recruiting efforts to high schools with many minority applicants, are much less time- and cost-effective, she said.
Supreme Court To Rehear Affirmative Action Case
July 1, 2015
The Supreme Court will once again take up affirmative action in college admissions. The Court announced Monday it would review whether considering race and ethnicity while building a college class is constitutional..."It's always been a highly contentious issue," says Tomiko Brown-Nagin, who teaches law and history at Harvard. Brown-Nagin says the Court is taking up affirmative action at a time when the country is debating questions of access for students of color. "It's incredibly competitive to be admitted to selective institutions of higher education," she says. "On the one hand you have the continuing controversy over the use of race in admission. On the other hand you have a lot of anxiety in the public about whether students will be admitted to college."
The Wrong Path to Higher Ed Equality
February 16, 2015
An op-ed by Tomiko Brown-Nagin. President Obama’s free community college proposal and college ratings initiatives promise to further the historic expansion of college access begun in 1965, when Congress created the Pell Grant Program, which pried open the doors of higher education to deserving but poor students. But the administration’s chosen means to the praiseworthy end of further expanding college access do not fundamentally challenge inequality in higher education; instead, they reinforce our two-tiered and unequal system. Federal policy instead should encourage academically qualified, lower-income students to matriculate to selective, four-year colleges. A monetary rewards system (a Race to the Top for higher education) or statutory mandates could advance that objective.
As views on race relations dim, Obama grasps for historical context
December 11, 2014
After President Obama was sworn in as the nation's first African-American president, Americans had a bright outlook on race relations: 66 percent of Americans in April 2009 said race relations were generally good. More than five years later, the latest CBS News poll shows, views on race relations have dimmed dramatically. Just 45 percent say race relations are generally good, the lowest figure in CBS News polling since 1997. ...In some ways, improving attitudes about race have made the more persistent social problems harder to root out, historians say. "Whereas few publicly argue today that Jim Crow was justified, no one can dispute that law enforcement has a legitimate interest in ensuring public safety. Officers sometimes are justified in using force," Prof. Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a constitutional law expert at Harvard, told CBS. "The question is whether law enforcement officers police fairly, and whether there is accountability in the criminal justice system when officers engage in misconduct."
Sex-Equality Backers Seek Impetus in Oregon Measure
October 30, 2014
More than 100 years ago, Oregon was one of several states that gave women the right to vote, paving the way for federal ratification of women’s suffrage in 1920. This fall, Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo is spearheading a campaign here she hopes will spur a further step toward gender equality nationwide....Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, said making an ERA part of the federal constitution would be a challenge because of the “deeply contested social and legal issues” at play, such as reproductive rights, child care and education. “The meaning of sex equality is still up for grabs,” Ms. Brown-Nagin said. “The passage of a few decades and dynamics in Oregon have not changed that stubborn fact.”
The U.S. Supreme Court: Reviewing last year’s decisions (video)
October 17, 2014
In a discussion moderated by Professor John Manning, five Harvard Law School professors, Tomiko Brown-Nagin, John Coates, Richard Fallon, Charles Fried and Intisar Rabb, assessed last year’s Supreme Court decisions and shared their thoughts on those rulings.
Why We Need a New College Admissions Strategy
September 29, 2014
An op-ed by Tomiko Brown-Nagin. Sometimes, vague can be misleading—and harmful. For years, colleges have identified disadvantaged students based primarily on “diversity” and “need.” But those categories are broad and unspecific, and can be gamed by sophisticated applicants and parents. The result? Schools aren’t helping the students that really need it. And higher education is now perpetuating—rather than alleviating—inequality. We can reverse this pattern by learning from our education history and shifting the focus of that aid effort to first-generation college students. The key here is this: Colleges need to get more specific about who they want to help, and why.
On May 14, 2014, Harvard Law School Professor Tomiko Brown-Nagin, along with Bruce Ackerman of Yale Law School and Steven Calabresi of Northwestern Law School participated in a discussion at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia titled “The Civil Rights Movement: Redefining the Meaning of Equality.”
Why don’t we remember Ike as a civil rights hero?
May 20, 2014
Sixty years ago, with its historic ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools. President Dwight D. Eisenhower didn’t sound too happy about that… “Eisenhower’s lack of enthusiasm for Earl Warren’s decision certainly did not help the cause of school desegregation,” said Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a professor at Harvard Law School.
The author of the award-winning book “Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement,“ sees education as the civil rights frontier.
Brown-Nagin reflects on Schuette and justices’ differences on racial discrimination (video)
April 25, 2014
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, upholding Michigan’s ban on the use of race in university admissions, Harvard Law School Professor Tomiko Brown-Nagin appeared on MSNBC’s “Last Word” to discuss the divide in the Supreme Court’s on race.
The Insular Cases: Constitutional experts assess the status of territories acquired in the Spanish–American War (video)
March 18, 2014
More than 100 years after the U.S. Supreme Court decided a series of cases that left citizens of territories including Puerto Rico, Guam and the American Samoa with only limited Constitutional rights, Harvard Law School hosted a conference to reconsider the so-called Insular Cases and the resonance they continue to hold today.
The United States Supreme Court: Reviewing Last Year’s Work
October 4, 2013
During a Sept. 26 discussion at Harvard Law School, moderated by Dean Martha Minow, four of the School’s constitutional experts offered their thoughts on a trio of critical U.S. Supreme Court rulings involving same-sex marriage, voting rights, and affirmative action.
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.
‘Courage to Dissent’ wins numerous awards
January 17, 2013
“Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement” (Oxford University Press, 2011) by Harvard Law Professor Tomiko Brown-Nagin has received numerous awards and has been cited for offering an important new perspective on the civil rights movement. The book was released in paperback this past September by Oxford.
The controversial question of what role race should play in college admissions, if any, stands again before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas. Lani Guinier, the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, teamed up with Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a professor of law at HLS and a professor of history at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), to explore the legal background and possible outcomes of the Fisher case, which was argued recently.
The Long View
October 1, 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.
Tomiko Brown-Nagin receives the 2012 Bancroft Prize
March 16, 2012
Columbia University announced on Mar. 14 that a recent book by Tomiko Brown-Nagin will be awarded the 2012 Bancroft Prize. Her award-winning book “Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement” (Oxford University Press, 2011) offers a startling new perspective on the Civil Rights movement.
Tomiko Brown-Nagin appointed Professor of Law
December 5, 2011
Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a leading expert on legal history, education law, and civil rights, will join the Harvard Law School faculty as a tenured Professor of Law this summer. She will also serve as an affiliate of the History Department in Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.