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Harvard’s Randall Kennedy the inaugural Sadie Alexander L’27 Visiting Professor of Civil Rights

February 16, 2012
Randall Kennedy
Prof. Randall Kennedy

Randall Kennedy, a leading scholar of civil liberties and race relations law and an award-winning author, has been appointed Penn Law’s inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander ED’18, GR’21, L’27 Visiting Professor of Civil Rights for the 2012 spring semester. Kennedy currently holds the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he teaches courses on contracts, freedom of expression, and the regulation of race relations. 

Kennedy writes for a wide range of scholarly and general interest publications, and his recent books include Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency (2011); Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal (2008), and Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity and Adoption (2003). He book Race, Crime and the Law was the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 1998.

“We are delighted to welcome Randall, a celebrated scholar and gifted teacher, to the Law School as the first incumbent of this important professorship,” said Michael A. Fitts, Dean of Penn Law. “The Chair serves as a critical means by which we can educate the next generation of lawyers about civil rights law in America. In addition, it will serve to contribute within and outside the legal academy to the comprehensive study and discussion about ways we can combat discrimination in any form.”

“I am deeply honored to contribute to the legacy of the Alexanders, activist jurists whom I have long admired,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy sits on the editorial boards of The Nation, Dissent, and The American Prospect, and is a member of the American Law Institute, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association.   

Kennedy earned his A.B. from Princeton University and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Prior to joining Harvard’s law faculty in 1984, he served as a law clerk for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the U.S. Court of Appeals and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Randall Kennedy
Sadie T.M. Alexander ED’18, GR’21, L’27 and Raymond Pace Alexander W’20


Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander was the first African American in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. in economics and, in 1927, the first African American woman to graduate from Penn Law. Her exceptional career included service to President Harry Truman as a member of his President’s Committee on Civil Rights, as well as her active role in the creation of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Rights and her work as its first commissioner.   

Her husband, Raymond Pace Alexander, was appointed the first African-American judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas; one of his decisions led to the establishment of Community Legal Services. He and his wife played key roles in Pennsylvania’s 1935 Equal Rights Law, making it illegal to deny African-Americans access to public schools, restaurants and hotels.

The Chair was established at Penn Law through an initial gift from the Alexander estate in 1993, and through the involvement of the Alexanders’ daughters, Dr. Rae Alexander-Minter GR’81, who played a pivotal role over the years in leading fundraising efforts, and Mary B. Cannaday. The Chair has been co-funded by the Law School, Penn, and through a grant by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and a gift from the law firm Duane Morris. In addition, in 1994 Penn Law’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) established a Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Committee and each year since then has hosted an annual dinner and conference to support fundraising for the Chair as well as celebrate the Alexanders’ lives and legacy. In total, more than 350 donors, including individual alumni, students, and faculty, as well as alumni groups, student groups, law firms, and corporations, have contributed to the establishment of the professorship.

Penn Law is actively seeking a permanent incumbent for the Chair.