On Tuesday evening, February 20, Professor Randall Kennedy delivered a talk in honor of his appointment as the first-ever Michael R. Klein Professor of Law. With Michael Klein ’67 and his wife Joan on hand for the event, Dean Elena Kagan ’86 lauded Kennedy in her introduction, commenting that, “Randy is an intellectual in the very best sense. He challenges the public, as he challenges his colleagues and his students to think hard and to shake free of familiar or comfortable assumptions.”

In his lecture lecture entitled “Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal”, Kennedy spoke about the topic of a forthcoming book, which will be an examination of loyalty and disloyalty in relations between African Americans. Kennedy focused on the term “sellout,” discussing how it is invoked amongst African Americans, as well as the problems with using the term on a regular basis.

“The specter of the “sellout” haunts the African American imagination,” Kennedy said. “This indictment is so pervasive that there is no common black man who attains success in a multi-racial setting who will not be faced with the possibility of this indictment.”

Michael Klein, who established the chair in 2004, has been a longtime supporter of HLS. With a particular interest in civil rights issues, Klein has been a regular contributor to the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice.

“Mike is a truly amazing guy: idealistic, practical, generous, and very, very smart,” Kagan said. “His career has spanned the worlds of arts, education, law, and business in both the private and not-for-profit realms. In each of these areas, Mike has worked to make the world a better place.”

Klein has practiced law at WilmerHale in Washington, D.C. for over 35 years and has been heavily involved with organizations such as the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and the American Himalayan Foundation. He is also the co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation, which aims to make government more transparent and accountable. You can read more about Klein here.

Kennedy joined the HLS faculty in 1984 and is well-known for his ground-breaking work about race relations in the U.S. He is the author of “Interracial Intimicies: Sex, Marriage, Identity and Adoption and Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.”

After graduating with a B.A. from Princeton University, he studied History at Balliol College, Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. Kennedy received his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1982. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.