Bryan Stevenson, attorney, human rights activist, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and author of Just Mercy, will deliver the Max Rosenn Lecture in Law and Humanities on April 14 at Wilkes University. Stevenson will speak about “American Injustice: Mercy, Humanity and Making a Difference.” The event will be at 2 p.m. in the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts, 239 S. River St., Wilkes-Barre. The lecture is free and open to the public. Advance registration is not required, but is encouraged. To register, visit www.wilkes.edu/rosenn.
Stevenson is one of the most acclaimed and respected lawyers in the nation. His memoir, Just Mercy, is the story of a young lawyer fighting on the frontlines of a country in thrall to extreme punishments and careless justice. It is an inspiring story of unbreakable humanity in the most desperate circumstances, and a powerful indictment of our broken justice system and the twisted values that allow it to continue.
After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1985, Stevenson moved to the South, a region on the verge of a crisis. States were speeding up executions, but many of the condemned lacked anyone to represent them. On a shoestring budget he started the Equal Justice Initiative, a law practice dedicated to defending some of America’s most rejected and marginalized people. The cases he took on would change Stevenson’s life and transform his understanding of justice and mercy forever.
Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu has called Stevenson “America’s young Nelson Mandela.” His work on individual cases has generated national attention and his efforts have reversed death penalties for dozens of condemned prisoners. The Equal Justice Initiative recently won an historic ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional. Stevenson’s remarkable 20-minute TED Talk on the subject of injustice has been viewed over 4 million times on the TED website and over 700,000 times on YouTube; The New Yorker named it one of five essential TED Talks.
In April 2018, the Equal Justice Initiative opened the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Designed to show how our nation’s history of slavery, lynching and discrimination set the stage for modern-day injustices such as mass incarceration and police brutality, the Legacy Museum serves as a center of public information and an overdue memorial to victims of racial violence. The organization also launched Segregation in America, a companion website that explores the lesser known narratives of dozens of national leaders who advocated for segregation and white supremacy. The website is meant to focus on the people who supported racial inequality to help define the challenges that still affect racial tensions today.
Stevenson is the recipient of numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant and the NAACP Image Award for Best Non-Fiction, and was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People for 2015. Stevenson is a tenured law professor at New York University School of Law. He was named in Fortune’s 2016 World’s Greatest Leaders list, and served on President Barack Obama’s task force on 21st-century policing.
The Max Rosenn Lecture in Law and Humanities was established at Wilkes University in 1980 in recognition of Judge Rosenn’s exceptional contributions to public service. It was established by his former law clerks, his law firm, Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald, family and friends. Past speakers include Anna Deavere Smith, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Anthony Lewis, Cory Booker and Bob Woodward.