Bryan Stevenson, the attorney, activist and best-selling author who led the team that created the first national memorial to victims of lynching, will speak at UNC Asheville’s Kimmel Arena at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 25. Doors will open at 6 p.m. The talk is free and open to everyone, with support from The David and Lin Brown Visionary Lecture Series and The Van Winkle Law Firm Public Policy Lectures.
Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Stevenson recently won a historic ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court banning mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger. He also is the author of award-winning New York Times best-selling book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.
A professor of clinical law at the New York University School of Law, Stevenson has been awarded the American Bar Association’s highest honor, the ABA Medal, and the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union – he was nominated for the latter by U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Stevens. Stevenson has been dubbed “America’s Nelson Mandela” by none other than Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
Stevenson also has become a national leader in advocacy and public education about mass incarceration and its roots. In April 2018, EJI opened a new museum, The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, built on the site of a former slave warehouse in downtown Montgomery. This is a companion to a national memorial to victims of lynching, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened at the same time, gaining national news coverage, including a feature by Oprah Winfrey on CBS’ 60 Minutes.
As Stevenson told Winfrey, “We want to call this community to repentance, to acknowledgement, to shame. We want to tell the truth, because we believe in truth and reconciliation but we know that truth and reconciliation are sequential. We can’t get to where we’re trying to go if we don’t tell the truth first.” Stevenson’s team, which has chronicled more than 4,300 lynchings, continues to find more.
Many area residents will be reading Just Mercy this spring in anticipation of Stevenson’s visit to Asheville. UNC Asheville’s faculty, together with teachers at Asheville High School, is planning activities for students at both institutions, and some community events focused around the issues raised by Stevenson’s work.
Stevenson, who has been awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize and 34 honorary degrees, is a graduate of the Harvard Law School.
His lecture at UNC Asheville is a special event as part of the installation celebration for UNC Asheville’s Chancellor Nancy J. Cable. “Bryan Stevenson is a visionary leader in the field of social justice. The passionate work of his Equal Justice Initiative to challenge racial discrimination in the criminal justice system and confront our nation’s history of racial inequality and injustice has reached millions,” said Nancy J. Cable, Chancellor, UNC Asheville. “It is an honor and privilege to welcome Mr. Stevenson to our campus. We are grateful to our generous sponsors, Dave and Lin Brown and the Van Winkle Law Firm, for providing us with the opportunity to discuss these vital and relevant issues with the university and Asheville communities.”
Seating at this free, unticketed event is first-come, first served. Kimmel Arena’s “Clear Bag Policy” will be in effect; please do not bring backpacks. Parking is limited at UNC Asheville; please consider using public transportation.
For more information, contact the UNC Asheville Events & Conferences Office, 828.251.6853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.