The Ford Foundation today announced the appointment of legal scholar and author Michelle Alexander as a senior fellow contributing to the foundation’s work on democracy, rights, and justice.
Alexander is a renowned and respected civil rights lawyer and legal scholar whose work has been foundational to racial justice movements over the past two decades, including the emerging national movement to end mass incarceration. Her recent best-selling book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, spurred debate and action in universities, churches, prisons, and communities nationwide.
“Michelle’s work has made a profound contribution to our understanding of race and justice in the United States today, and we are deeply honored to have her join us as a senior fellow,“ said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “For over a decade, her authoritative scholarship and powerful storytelling have helped change minds and transform lives. We’re thrilled that she has chosen the Ford Foundation to broaden and deepen her work on justice and dignity for all.“
As a senior fellow, Alexander will continue her advocacy work while writing a new book, entitled Let My People Go, which aims to address the challenges of building a truly transformative human rights movement. Her project will tell the stories of those who have most influenced her, from youth activists to faith leaders to formerly incarcerated individuals. Seizing on the current social and political moment, Alexander will work to engage a wider audience in the fight to end mass incarceration, supplementing her book with a related documentary film and website.
In addition to being an influential media commentator and prolific public speaker, Alexander has taught at a number of universities, including Stanford Law School, where she directed the Civil Rights Clinic, and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. In 2005, she won a Soros Justice Fellowship, which supported the writing of The New Jim Crow.
“I'm thrilled to join the Ford Foundation as a senior fellow and grateful not only for their interest in my writing and work, but also for their commitment to supporting—as best they can—the emerging human rights movement that aims to transform the meaning of race and justice in America,“ said Alexander.
Prior to entering academia, Alexander served as the Director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of North California, where she launched a major campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement, known as the “Driving While Black or Brown Campaign.“ She is a graduate of Stanford Law and Vanderbilt University, and has clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court and for Chief Judge Abner Mikva on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The Ford Foundation has long supported those working for reform of the criminal justice system and the dismantling of mass incarceration. In recent years, the foundation has provided grants to organizations promoting alternatives to arrest and prosecution, like the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Initiative in Seattle, Washington, and Common Justice in Brooklyn, New York.
The foundation has a long-standing program of appointing individuals who are distinguished in their fields or areas of practice to join the foundation for a period of time as fellows. Current fellows include Deborah Wright as senior fellow working on issues of economic opportunity, and Wendy Pureifoy as senior fellow working on education reform issues.