The series provides our community with foundational knowledge on race, civil rights, discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, and critical historical milestones and their importance. We hope the series will ground our understanding of present-day discourse in a deeper, historically-informed context to highlight social and political movements, impetus for legal changes, and ongoing areas of contention and struggle in race, civil rights and discrimination. Events are free and open to the public.
The Spring 2022 Dean’s Lecture Series will convene cutting-edge thinkers, scholars and practitioners pioneering new thinking in racial justice, civil rights, and discrimination. This Series aims to provide the VLS Community with a chance to come together, to listen and to engage with a varied set of perspectives delivered through a set of interdisciplinary lectures. A full list of speakers is listed below. This year, most speakers will likely deliver their Lectures on Zoom. We encourage all members of the VLS community to participate as fully as they can.
Associate Professor of African American and Public History and
North Nashville Heritage Project Coordinator
Tennessee State University
March 3, 2022, 12:30 p.m.
Professor Learotha Williams of Tennessee State University is a scholar and public intellectual of the Civil War and the Reconstruction period. He has helped to create experiential education examining Nashville and Tennessee’s significance as part of the history of slavery, the Civil War and the fight for civil rights. He has been instrumental in advocating for the creation of historical markers around Nashville. Professor Williams is the Co-Editor of I’ll Take You There: Exploring Nashville’s Social Justice Sites. He also runs the North Nashville Heritage Project, exploring the experiences and histories of the residents of North Nashville.
, Founder and Executive Director of the Choosing Justice Initiative
Charlane Oliver , Co-Founder & Co-Executive Director of The Equity Alliance
Keeda Haynes, Senior Legal Advisor of Free Hearts and Voting Rights Campaign Strategist at the Sentencing Project
March 23, 2022, 3:10 - 4:30 p.m.
Watch the presentation
This moderated discussion, led by Professor Yesha Yadav, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Community, will feature an all-star panel of extraordinary leaders in activism and advocacy.
Assistant Professor of Law
The University of California, Irvine School of Law
April 1, 2022, 12:30 p.m.
Professor Song's teaching and research focuses on criminal law, criminal procedure, and policing. Her scholarship examines the deployment of policing authority and its effects on racial minority and other marginalized groups. Her research informs interventions that address race- and class-based disparities in policing practices. Song is a well-known advocate for local, regional, and national juvenile justice reform.
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
April 21, 2022, 12:30 p.m.
Goodwin Liu is an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court. Nominated by Governor Jerry Brown, Justice Liu was sworn into office in 2011 and retained by the electorate in 2014. Before joining the state’s highest court, Justice Liu was Professor of Law and Associate Dean at the UC Berkeley School of Law. His primary areas of expertise are constitutional law, education law and policy, and diversity in the legal profession.
The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Justice Liu grew up in Sacramento, CA. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Stanford University and earned a masters degree in philosophy and physiology from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. After graduating from Yale Law School, Justice Liu became the first in his family to earn a law degree. He clerked for Judge David Tatel on the U.S. Court of Appeals, then worked as Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, and went on to clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He has also worked in litigation. Justice Liu continues to teach constitutional law as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School.
Professor of Law Rachel and F. Moran Endowed Chair in Law
UCLA School of Law
This lecture has been cancelled.
Laura E. Gómez, Professor of Law and Rachel F. Moran Endowed Chair in Law at UCLA Law, co-founded and served as the first co-director of UCLA School of Law’s Critical Race Studies Program. Her research focuses on the intersection of law, politics and inequality both today and in the distant past.
In addition to teaching Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, and upper-year curriculum courses at UCLA School of Law, Professor Gómez also holds faculty appointments in the Departments of Sociology and Chicana and Chicano Studies. She has written numerous articles, book chapters, and books, including Misconceiving Mothers: Legislators, Prosecutors and the Politics of Prenatal Drug Exposure, which is widely taught in law and society and gender studies courses, and Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race, which is widely taught in ethnic studies and history courses. Prior to her career as a law professor, she clerked for Judge Dorothy W. Nelson on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and worked as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, with a portfolio that included Central American policy, South African policy, and Armed Services. Gómez graduated with honors in Social Studies from Harvard (where she was a Truman Scholar) and received three degrees from Stanford--an M.A., a Ph.D. in Sociology, and a J.D.
Dick and Martha Lansden Chair in Law; Professor of History; Co-Director, George Barrett Social Justice Program
Vanderbilt Law School
February 25, 2021
Daniel Sharfstein’s scholarship focuses on the legal history of race and citizenship in the United States. He received a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship to research his book on post-Reconstruction America, Thunder in the Mountains: Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard and the Nez Perce War (W.W. Norton & Company, 2017). His book, The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White (Penguin Press, 2011), won the 2012 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for excellence in non-fiction as well as the Law & Society Association’s 2012 James Willard Hurst Jr. Prize for socio-legal history, the William Nelson Cromwell Book Prize from the American Society for Legal History, and the Chancellor’s Award for Research from Vanderbilt.
Assistant Professor of History; Assistant Professor of Law
March 4, 2021, 12:00 p.m.
Kim Welch is a historian of the United States with a focus on slavery, race, and the law in the American South. She is particularly interested in the world of free and enslaved African Americans, how they understood their place in southern society, and how they advanced it. Understanding how those confined to positions of subordination enlarged their rights has led her to the southern courthouse. There, to a surprising degree, they staked their claim and more often than not found it confirmed. Her first book—Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South (University of North Carolina Press, 2018)—is a historical and socio-legal study of free and enslaved African Americans' use of the local courts in the cotton South.
Assistant Professor of History
March 18, 2021, 12:00 p.m.
James Weldon Johnson, “Self-Determining Haiti, Part I” (1920)
Julia Gaffield, “Race and the Haitian Constitution of 1805” (2015)
Edwidge Danticat, “Haitians are at an Impasse over the Country’s Future” (2021)
Brandon Byrd is a historian of black intellectual and social history, with special focus on black internationalism. His first book, The Black Republic: African Americans and the Fate of Haiti (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), explores the ambivalent attitudes that black intellectuals in the post-Civil War era held toward Haiti. Spanning the Reconstruction, post-Reconstruction, and Jim Crow eras, The Black Republic recovers a crucial and overlooked chapter of black internationalism and political thought. Professor Byrd's scholarship has appeared in numerous journals, including The Journal of African American History, Slavery and Abolition, and The Journal of Haitian Studies, and in popular outlets, such as The Washington Post. He was a faculty fellow at Vanderbilt’s Robert Penn Warren Center, participating in a year-long faculty seminar on the theme of “Borders and Belonging.” In addition to his teaching and research, Professor Byrd is a co-editor of the Black Lives and Liberation series published by Vanderbilt University Press.
Director, Center for Medicine, Health, and Society; Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Medicine, Health, and Society; Professor of Psychiatry
March 25, 2021, 12:00 p.m.
Jonathan Metzl earned his M.D. from the University of Missouri, M.A. in humanities/poetics and psychiatric internship/residency from Stanford University, and Ph.D. in American culture from University of Michigan. Winner of the 2020 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Book Award, the 2020 APA Benjamin Rush Award for Scholarship, and a 2008 Guggenheim fellowship, Dr. Metzl has written extensively for medical, psychiatric and other popular publications about some of the most urgent hot-button issues facing America and the world. His books include The Protest Psychosis, Prozac on the Couch, Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality, and Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America's Heartland.
John L. Seigenthaler Chair in American History
March 31, 2021, 12:00 p.m.
Rhonda Y. Williams is a historian of low-income black women's and marginalized people's experiences, everyday lives, politics, and social struggles. Her research contributes to the rethinking of gender, political identity, citizenship, civil rights, black liberation struggles, and interactions with the U.S. state. She is the author of the award-winning The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women's Struggles against Urban Inequality (2004) and Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century (2015). She is the author of numerous articles and essays, including the forthcoming book chapter titled "Women, Gender, Race, and the Welfare State" in the Oxford Handbook for Women's and Gender History, co-edited by Lisa Materson and Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor. Williams is also the co-editor of the book series Justice, Power, and Politics at the University of North Carolina Press and is co-editor of Teaching the American Civil Rights Movement.
Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education; Assistant Professor of Law
Vanderbilt University Peabody College
April 15, 2021, 12:00 p.m.
Matthew Shaw joined the faculty of Vanderbilt’s Peabody College in fall 2016 after completing his doctorate in education at Harvard University. Professor Shaw earned his law degree in Columbia in 2005, after which he served for two years as a clerk for Chief Judge W. Louis Sands of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. He practiced law in Atlanta at King & Spading and Schulten Ward & Turner before pursuing his Ed.D. at Harvard, where his dissertation, "Shaping the DREAM: Law as Policy Defining Undocumented Students’ College Access," addressed several of his research interests, including federal law and education policy and the insularity of minority status.
Students may choose to undertake a one-credit-hour independent study elective attached to this lecture series on a first-come, first-served basis, to be supervised by Associate Dean Yesha Yadav. Requirements include attending each event of the series and providing a 4-5 page reaction paper to your faculty advisor. Those interested should complete the registration form and contact the assistant dean for academic affairs.