NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Ifill to deliver annual Higginbotham Lecture

On Thursday, Nov. 20, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, will deliver the 2014 Higginbotham Lecture with a talk titled, “Matters of Race: Brown, Ferguson, and the Unfinished Civil Rights Agenda.”

The two-hour program, co-sponsored by the Center for Africana Studies and Penn Law School, will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Law School’s Silverman 240A. The lecture is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

“The audience can look forward to a provocative discussion that ties together the historic legacy of struggle for equal rights and the burning issues of racial justice that face our country today,” says Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor Dorothy Roberts, who will introduce Ifill.

Ifill is one of the nation’s leading civil rights scholars and lawyers. She successfully litigated the landmark Voting Rights Act case Houston Lawyers’ Association v. Attorney General of Texas and is author of the critically acclaimed book, “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,” which reflects her lifelong engagement in and analysis of issues of race and American public life.  

Ifill heads the country’s oldest and preeminent racial justice law firm. The Legal Defense Fund was at the forefront of the courtroom battle to desegregate public education and has continued to champion crucial cases and laws before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Congress for voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing, and environmental justice.  

The Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Lecture was established in 1989 to honor the judge’s contributions to the American legal and scholarly communities. Higginbotham, who passed away in 1998, was appointed to the federal bench at age 36 by President John F. Kennedy and served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit from 1977-1993. In 1968, he became the first African American elected to serve on Penn’s Board of Trustees.

Typically held during the fall semester, the Higginbotham Lecture brings to campus a distinguished scholar or public servant whose work focuses on an issue, event, or personality in the African-American community of either historical or contemporary interest in the areas of history, social justice, or law.

This year’s program is part of Penn’s ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, which includes a series of events highlighting the history of the struggle for equality in America and the work being done today to make equality a reality.