an opportunity to remember Judge Higginbotham, a hero; to reflect on his legacy; and to rededicate ourselves to the work that he embodied.
students, lawyers, judges, professors, and other activists
February 22-24, 2002
The Yale Law School
The purpose of this conference is
To reflect on the legacy of The Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., and
To proffer a vision for civil rights activism in the American legal process today. To think critically about issues of race, values, and the law as it relates to the institutions of Criminal Justice, the Academy, the Judiciary, and the Electorate
To consider what challenges they pose to the next generation
To memorialize this event by publishing the proceedings in a law journal

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham
F. Michael Higginbotham
The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton
Ernest Rubenstein

Drew S. Days III
Dean Anthony T. Kronman

Cynthia D. Johnson, Co-Chair
Reshma M. Saujani, Co-Chair
Riva Khoshaba, Publicity
Heather Lewis, Fundraising
Becky Monroe, Symposium
Intisar Rabb, Registration
Damara Griffth, Onsite Registration

sponsored by
The Black Law Students Association of
Yale Law School
Spring, 2002


There are certain people in the world who leave an indelible mark upon the hearts and minds of a nation. The Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. was one of those people.

A. Leon Higginbotham was born Feb. 25, 1928, in Trenton, N.J. He received a bachelor's degree from Antioch College and a law degree at Yale Law School in 1952, and eventually became that school's first black trustee.

President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the Federal Trade Commission in 1962, making him the first black person on the panel. In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the commission that investigated the urban riots of the Sixties. The resulting Kerner Report blamed the violence on a growing polarization between blacks and whites.

Higginbotham was first appointed to the federal bench in 1961. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter elevated him to the 3rd Circuit, which handles cases from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands. When he retired in 1993, Higginbotham was Chief Judge of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, one of 13 federal appeals courts that are second in rank only to the U.S. Supreme Court.

After retiring from the bench, Higginbotham became a public service professor of jurisprudence at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Along with his judicial achievements, Higginbotham is acclaimed for his multi-volume study "Race and the American Legal Process." In those books, he examined how colonial law was linked to slavery and racism, and analyzed how the post-slavery legal system continued to perpetuate oppression of blacks.

In 1994, South Africa President Nelson Mandela asked Higginbotham to serve as a mediator during that country's first elections in which blacks could vote.

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