The Center for the Study of Black Life and the Law, approved by Mitchell Hamline faculty in October 2022, is an integral part of the school’s identity as an antiracist institution and the site of scholarly and community engagement regarding the dignified treatment of Black and BlaQueer (LGBTQ+) people under law.
The need for a research center focused primarily on the nexus of Black life and the law cannot be overstated. The most obvious reason is the racialized manner of policing that disproportionately affects Black people in America. This issue is nothing new for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Minnesota, the Midwest, or the nation as a whole, but the history and present of Minneapolis are particularly fraught. In addition to inequities in policing, Minnesota, and the Twin Cities in particular, has among the worst racial inequality in the nation in wealth, employment, education, and other measures.
Video: Introducing the Center for the Study of Black Life and the Law
Dr. T. Anansi Wilson, founding director of the Center for the Study of Black Life and the Law, discusses his goals and focus for the center.
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The center is uniquely situated to be the flagship setting for the study of Black life and the law at Mitchell Hamline, within the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the Midwest, and the nation. We are dedicated to the intellectual, political, artistic, and social development of people of African descent (inclusive of both Black Americans and African immigrants), particularly as it relates to law—and the afterlives of chattel slavery—in order to facilitate and maintain the realization of the complete, equitable, and dignified citizenship necessary for functioning cities, states, and democracies. We seek to expand both the public and academic understanding of Black Americans’ lack of access to civil rights, human rights, freedom, and equal justice under the law by integrating legal advocacy, grassroots organizing, artistic expression and inquiry, and academic study. The center will serve as a resource for local community members, Mitchell Hamline students and faculty, policymakers, and scholars across the nation. Through its focus on scholarship, programming, and community engagement, the center supports scholarly, professional, and creative work that seek to foster social justice for Black people.
Student reflections on the center
“The Center for the Study of Black Life and the Law is necessary to Mitchell Hamline in implementing measures to ensure sustainable change. Not only does the center focus on the intersection of Black, BlaQueer (Black Queer) people, and the law but it emphasizes the way in which providing equitable remedies to folks that have directly and consistently faced structural systemic oppressions will be beneficial to everyone.
Most importantly, the center is crucial to Mitchell Hamline’s progression as an antiracist law school. For providing this center will cultivate a space where Black, BlaQueer, BIPOC, and Queer folks alike can be represented and safely create new ways (and perhaps laws) to educate, liberate, and uplift all people. I am honored to witness the Center for the Study of Black Life and the Law come to fruition.”
—Ryan Franklin, President, Black Law Students Association, 3L
“It’s no coincidence or exaggeration that I and many others referred to Dr. Wilson’s Race, Sexuality, and The Law as therapy. The basics of legal education must include space to challenge the anti-Black structures that the constitution and, consequently, lawyers protect; no legal discipline or niche is immune to weaponizing the law to harm Black bodies. This demands naming Blackness, the Black experience, and certainly the anti-Black nonsense that inspired, and continues to animate, the law and all cultures.
It is excruciating work that should make a conscious person uncomfortable. So, it should go without saying: The Center for the Study of Black Life and the Law is necessary because it’s beautifully universal and intentional; it’s not a reflexive social justice agenda but a vault of authentic testimonies. The novelty of the center coupled with Dr. Wilson’s spirit and pedagogy are elements that make this unveiling so epic and comforting to witness.”
—Deanie Hatch, President, Latine Law Student Association, 3L
“For me, taking Critical Race Theory set a foundation to better understand diverse America. When we view things through a critical race theory lens and dissect underlying intentions that condition society and frame our legal system, we gain a better understanding of why the law is the way it is. We gain a deeper understanding of dominant culture and its affects and effects on everyday peoples’ everyday life, specifically Black folk, and non-white people of color. Things are not the way they are magically. They were purposefully created that way. And most people don’t question that because it is all they have ever known. Learning about Critical Race Theory is only a fraction of what the Center for the Study of Black Life and the Law will accomplish.”
—Marilys Solano, 2L Blended Learning
Dr. T. Anansi Wilson discusses the uniqueness of Mitchell Hamline’s Center for the Study of Black Life and the Law among law schools across the country.