Human rights

Civil rights champion and Harvard law professor Lani Guinier dies at 71

She was Bennett Boskey Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School, where she was the first woman of color to hold office.

After serving as Special Assistant in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice during the Carter administration, Ms. Guinier worked for the NAACP Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, where she led the Human Rights Project. vote.

In April 1993, then President Clinton – a former classmate of Ms. Guinier at Yale Law School – appointed her deputy attorney general for civil rights.

However, Republican U.S. senators and conservative media figures quickly fought her nomination, and Clinton withdrew her nomination.

“On April 30, a Wall Street Journal columnist coined the murderous epithet: Clinton’s Quota Queen,” she wrote in a New York Times essay the following February.

After Clinton withdrew her nomination, she spoke at a press conference about the experience.

“I always wanted to be a civil rights lawyer,” she said, according to a transcript posted on the BlackPast.org website.

“I deeply regret not having the opportunity to work in the civil service of the Civil Rights Division,” she added. “I am very disappointed that I did not have the opportunity to move forward to be confirmed and to work closely together to move this country away from the polarization of the past 12 years, to lower the decibel level of the rhetoric that surrounds race, and to Build Bridges Between People of Goodwill to uphold civil rights laws on behalf of all Americans. ”

In her message to the Harvard Law School community, Manning wrote that “Ms. Guinier’s scholarship has changed our understanding of democracy – why and how the voices of historically underrepresented people need to be heard and to have meaningful voting rights. It has also transformed our understanding of the education system and what we need to do to create opportunities for all members of our diverse society to learn, grow and thrive in school and beyond.

Ms. Guinier’s survivors include her husband, Nolan Bowie, and son, Nikolas Bowie.

Full information on the survivors and a memorial service was not immediately available.

“Lani dedicated her life to justice, equality, empowerment and democracy and in doing so made the world a better place,” Manning wrote. “Her voice, her wisdom, her integrity, her bravery, her concern for others, her imagination and rigorous thinking, and her unfailing sense of justice will inspire those who knew her and those who come to know her life and legacy.” over the years. to come.”

A full obituary will follow.


Bryan Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com.