Influential Black Lawyers and Legal Scholars

Influential Black Lawyers and Legal Scholars

Our list of influential Black lawyers and legal scholars is composed of leaders in the field who are paving the way for future lawyers. They are doing groundbreaking work in areas such as civil rights, critical race theory, and public activism.

Top 10 Black Lawyers and Legal Scholars from the Last 30 Years

  1. Clarence Thomas
  2. Charles B. Rangel
  3. Eleanor Holmes Norton
  4. Bryan Stevenson
  5. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw
  6. Sheila Jackson Lee
  7. Valerie Jarrett
  8. Dennis Archer
  9. Marian Wright Edelman
  10. Lani Guinier
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According to the American Bar Association, a lawyer is a licensed professional who advises and represents others in legal matters. A lawyer has two main duties: to uphold the law while also protecting a client’s rights. These 45 influential law and legal scholars are lawyers, legislators, judges, politicians, and professors working in the field of academia. They are essential in helping to set legal precedent and shift mindset in areas such as such as civil rights, critical race theory, Black feminist legal theory, race, racism, and public activism. As many of the other influential Black scholars we have ranked in other fields have demonstrated, these are the change makers, those who not only are working to shift mindset on glaring areas of inequality and injustice, but are also champions of the under-represented and wrongly convicted.

Diversity in the legal profession is a critical concern. According to the American Bar Association’s Profile of the Legal Profession, in 2020, approximately 5% of lawyers were Black, while the population of African Americans overall in the United States overall was 13.4%. The percentage of Black lawyers has remained the same for the last decade.

Chart showing the diversity of lawyers by race in 2020
Source Data: American Bar Association Profile of the Legal Profession, 2020
  • Civil Rights activist Derrick Bell was critical in helping to desegregate schools in Mississippi.
  • Marian Wright Edelman is a champion for children’s rights.
  • Stephen L. Carter, professor of law at Yale, does research and teaches on contracts, just war theory, religion and culture, and American slavery law, among other areas.
  • Bryan A. Stevenson, professor at New York University School of Law, is also the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, which litigates on behalf of condemned prisoners, juvenile offenders, people wrongly convicted or charged, poor people denied effective representation, and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct.
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, perhaps the most prominent African American lawyer of the last 30 years, is noted for being a constitutional originalist.
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The Black scholars in our list were identified as highly cited and searched people using our machine-powered Influence Ranking algorithm, which produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data.

Find out more about our Methodology.

Influence is dynamic, therefore some of the law and legal scholars listed are contemporary while others may be more historical figures. In either case, according to our AI, these are the most cited and searched Black law and legal scholars over the past 30 years.

Note: Scholars are arranged alphabetically

  1. Anita L. Allen

    1953 - Present (69 years)

    Anita L. Allen current holds the titles of the Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and is Vice Provost of Faculty. Within the university, Allen has also worked with the bioethics department, the Africana Studies program, and the gender, sexuality, and women’s studies program. Outside of the University of Pennsylvania, Allen has also taught at places including Georgetown University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Tel Aviv University. Allen received her BA from the New College of Florida, and her MA and PhD in philosophy from the University of Michigan.

    Allen is often cited as an international expert on issues of law and ethics, especially in regards to privacy, as well as women’s rights and diversity in higher education. Much of Allen’s work investigates the intersection between privacy, ethics, and society, and what these things mean in an increasingly advanced age in which the nature and role of privacy in our everyday lives and decisions is constantly shifting. These concerns extended to bioethics as well; in fact, in 2010 Allen was selected by President Barack Obama for the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

  2. Dennis Archer

    1942 - Present (80 years)
    Dennis Wayne Archer is an American lawyer, jurist and former politician from Michigan. A Democrat, Archer served on the Michigan Supreme Court and as mayor of Detroit. He later served as president of the American Bar Association, becoming the first black president of the organization, which, until 1943, had barred African-American lawyers from membership.
  3. Derrick Bell

    1930 - 2011 (81 years)
    Derrick Albert Bell Jr. was an American lawyer, professor, and civil rights activist. Bell worked for first the U.S. Justice Department, then the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where he supervised over 300 school desegregation cases in Mississippi.
  4. Robert M. Bell

    1943 - Present (79 years)
    Robert Mack Bell is an American lawyer and jurist from Baltimore, Maryland. From 1996 to 2013, he served as Chief Judge on the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state. He was the first African American to hold the position.
  5. Janice Rogers Brown

    1949 - Present (73 years)
    Janice Rogers Brown is an American jurist. She served as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 2005 to 2017 and before that, Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court from 1996 to 2005. She is an affiliate of the Federalist Society and frequently lectures at events hosted by them.
  6. Stephen L. Carter

    1954 - Present (68 years)
    Stephen Lisle Carter is an American law professor at Yale University, legal- and social-policy writer, columnist, and best-selling novelist. Early life and education Carter was born in Washington, DC, the second of his parents’ five children. He was raised in a family committed to public service. His mother worked as an executive assistant for Julian Bond and M. Carl Holman of the National Urban Coalition. An attorney turned administrator, his father was Executive Director of the Washington Urban League, and later a vice president at Cornell University. Carter’s grandfather was a successful d...
  7. J. Michelle Childs

    1966 - Present (56 years)
    Julianna Michelle Childs , known professionally as J. Michelle Childs, is a United States district judge of the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, serving in that role since 2010. She previously served as a state circuit court judge based in Columbia, South Carolina. She is a nominee to be a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
  8. Johnnie Cochran

    1937 - 2005 (68 years)
    Johnnie Lee Cochran Jr. was an American lawyer and civil activist best known for his leadership role in the defense and criminal acquittal of O.J. Simpson for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. He often defended his client with rhymes like “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”
  9. William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr.

    1920 - 2017 (97 years)
    William Thaddeus Coleman Jr. was an American attorney and judge. Coleman was the fourth United States Secretary of Transportation, from March 7, 1975, to January 20, 1977, and the second African American to serve in the United States Cabinet. As an attorney, Coleman played a major role in significant civil rights cases. At the time of his death, Coleman was the oldest living former Cabinet member.
  10. Kimberlé Crenshaw

    1959 - Present (63 years)

    Areas of Specialization: Intersectionality, Critical Race Theory, Feminism and Law, Civil Rights
    Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is a lawyer, scholar, philosopher, and major civil rights advocate. Currently she holds the position of professor at the UCLA School of Law, as well as at Columbia Law School. Crenshaw completed her undergraduate education at Cornell University before receiving her JD from Harvard law School in 1984, and later a master of laws from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

    Influential far beyond just the realm of law, Crenshaw is one of the founders of critical race theory and the concept of intersectionality. These are methods of analyzing issues in regards to the influence of race, as well as the intersection (hence the name) of various aspects of identity, such as economic status, education, and gender. Crenshaw notes, of course, that she put the name "intersectionality" on the concept, but it existed before in the work of people such as Angela J. Davis and Deborah King. These ideas are just as often applied in fields including literature and art, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology as they are in law and legal theory.

  11. Christopher Darden

    1956 - Present (66 years)
    Christopher Allen Darden is an American lawyer, author, actor, and lecturer. He worked 15 years in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, where he gained national attention as a co-prosecutor in the O. J. Simpson murder case.
  12. Bernice B. Donald

    1951 - Present (71 years)
    Bernice Bouie Donald is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Early life and education Born in DeSoto County, Mississippi, Donald received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Memphis State University in 1974 and a Juris Doctor from Memphis State University School of Law in 1979. She was in private practice in Memphis, Tennessee from 1979 to 1980, then became a staff attorney of the Employment Law & Economic Development Unit, Memphis Area Legal Services, Tennessee in 1980. Donald was an assistant public defender, Shelby County Public Defender’s O...
  13. Carl E. Douglas

    1955 - Present (67 years)
    Carl Edwin Douglas is an American civil rights, wrongful death, personal injury, employment, and criminal defense lawyer specializing in police misconduct cases. He is best known for being one of the defense attorneys in the O. J. Simpson murder case, who were collectively dubbed the “Dream Team”. Douglas was the managing attorney at the law office of Johnnie Cochran Jr., before leaving to establish The Douglas Law Group in 1998. The practice is now known as Douglas / Hicks Law. Douglas’ other notable clients have included: singer Michael Jackson, actors Jamie Foxx and Queen Latifah, and f...
  14. Allyson Kay Duncan

    1951 - Present (71 years)
    Allyson Kay Duncan is a former United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. She was the Fourth Circuit’s first female African American judge. Background Duncan received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampton University in 1972 and a Juris Doctor from Duke University School of Law in 1975. She was an associate editor at the Lawyers Co-Operative Publishing Company from 1976 to 1977. Duncan then served for one year as a law clerk to Judge Julia Cooper Mack of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals from 1977 to 1978.
  15. Marian Wright Edelman

    1939 - Present (83 years)
    Marian Wright Edelman is an American activist for civil rights and children’s rights. She is founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund. She influenced leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Hillary Clinton.
  16. Larry Elder

    1952 - Present (70 years)
    Laurence Allen Elder is an American conservative talk radio host, author, politician, and attorney who hosts The Larry Elder Show. The show began as a local program on Los Angeles radio station KABC in 1993 and ran until 2008, followed by a second run on KABC from 2010 to 2014. The show is nationally syndicated, first through ABC Radio Networks from 2002 to 2007 and then Salem Media Group since 2015.
  17. Mablean Ephriam

    1949 - Present (73 years)
    Mablean Deloris Ephriam, Esq. is a former Los Angeles prosecuting attorney. She is best known as the adjudicator of the courtroom series Divorce Court for seven seasons from 1999–2006. She was replaced by Judge Lynn Toler in the show’s 2006-07 season. Ephriam is also known for her judge roles in Tyler Perry’s Madea films.
  18. Anthony Foxx

    1971 - Present (51 years)
    Anthony Renard Foxx is an American lawyer and politician who served as the United States Secretary of Transportation from 2013 to 2017. Previously, he served as the Mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, from 2009 to 2013. He is a member of the Democratic Party. First elected to the Charlotte City Council in 2005, upon his 2009 mayoral victory he became the youngest mayor of Charlotte and the second African American mayor.
  19. Lawrence Otis Graham

    1961 - 2021 (60 years)
    Lawrence Otis Graham was an American attorney and New York Times best-selling author. Early life and education Graham’s grandparents owned a trucking company in Tennessee. His father worked in the field of real estate management in New York. Graham was raised in Mount Vernon, New York, and later in White Plains, New York. He had a brother, Richard, an orthodontist.
  20. Roger Gregory

    1953 - Present (69 years)
    Roger L. Gregory is the Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Background Gregory was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but grew up in Petersburg, Virginia. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude from Virginia State University in 1975 and his Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School in 1978. He worked as an associate for Butzel Long and Hunton & Williams from 1978 until 1982. He co-founded the Richmond, Virginia law firm of Wilder & Gregory in 1982 with L. Douglas Wilder , and became the chair of its litig...
  21. Lani Guinier

    1950 - 2022 (72 years)
    Carol Lani Guinier was an American educator, legal scholar, and civil rights theorist. She was the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and the first woman of color appointed to a tenured professorship there. Before coming to Harvard in 1998, Guinier taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School for ten years. Her scholarship covered the professional responsibilities of public lawyers, the relationship between democracy and the law, the role of race and gender in the political process, college admissions, and affirmative action. In 1993 President Bill Clinton nominated...
  22. Angela P. Harris

    1961 - Present (61 years)
    Angela P. Harris is an American legal scholar at UC Davis School of Law, in the fields of critical race theory, feminist legal scholarship, and criminal law. She held the position of professor of law at UC Berkeley School of Law, joining the faculty in 1988. In 2009, Harris joined the faculty of the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School as a visiting professor. In 2010, she also assumed the role of acting vice dean for research and faculty development. In 2011, she accepted an offer to join the faculty at the UC Davis School of Law, and began teaching as a professor of law in t...
  23. Thelton Henderson

    1933 - Present (89 years)
    Thelton Eugene Henderson is an inactive Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. He has played an important role in the field of civil rights as a lawyer, educator, and jurist.
  24. Eleanor Holmes Norton

    1937 - Present (85 years)
    Eleanor Holmes Norton is an American lawyer and politician serving as a delegate to the United States House of Representatives, representing the District of Columbia since 1991. She is a member of the Democratic Party.
  25. Sherrilyn Ifill

    1962 - Present (60 years)
    Sherrilyn Ifill is an American lawyer. She is a law professor and president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She is the Legal Defense Fund’s seventh president since Thurgood Marshall founded the organization in 1940. Ifill is also a nationally recognized expert on voting rights and judicial selection. In 2021, Time named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world on its annual Time 100 list.
  26. Brian Anthony Jackson

    1960 - Present (62 years)
    Brian Anthony Jackson is an American lawyer and a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. Early life and education Born in New Orleans, Jackson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Xavier University of Louisiana in 1982 and a Juris Doctor in 1985 from Southern University Law Center. He also earned a Master of Laws degree in international and comparative law from Georgetown University Law Center in 2000.
  27. Ketanji Brown Jackson

    1970 - Present (52 years)
    Ketanji Brown Jackson is an American attorney and jurist serving as a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 2021. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Miami, Florida, Jackson attended Harvard University for college and law school, where she served as an editor on the Harvard Law Review. She began her legal career with three clerkships, including one with U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer. Prior to her elevation to an appellate court, from 2013 to 2021, she served as a district judge for the United States District Co...
  28. Valerie Jarrett

    1956 - Present (66 years)
    Valerie June Jarrett is an American businesswoman and former government official. She served as the senior advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama and assistant to the president for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs from 2009 to 2017. Before that, she served as a co-chair of the Obama–Biden Transition Project.
  29. Wallace B. Jefferson

    1963 - Present (59 years)
    Wallace Bernard Jefferson is a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, who served from 2004 until October 1, 2013. In October 2013, he joined the law firm Alexander Dubose & Jefferson LLP as a name partner and now practices appellate law.
  30. Jeh Johnson

    1957 - Present (65 years)
    Jeh Charles Johnson is an American lawyer and former government official. He was United States Secretary of Homeland Security from 2013 to 2017. From 2009 to 2012, Johnson was the general counsel of the Department of Defense during the first years of the Obama administration. Before joining the Obama administration, he was a federal prosecutor, the general counsel of the Department of the Air Force, and an attorney in private practice.
  31. Vernon Jordan

    1935 - 2021 (86 years)
    Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. was an American business executive and civil rights activist who worked for various civil rights movement organizations before becoming a close advisor to President Bill Clinton.
  32. Randall Kennedy

    1954 - Present (68 years)
    Randall LeRoy Kennedy is an American law professor at Harvard University and author. He is the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law and his research focuses on the intersection of racial conflict and legal institutions in American life. He specializes in contracts, freedom of expression, race relations law, civil rights legislation, and the Supreme Court.
  33. Sheila Jackson Lee

    1950 - Present (72 years)
    Sheila Jackson Lee is an American lawyer and politician who is the U.S. representative for , having served since 1995. The district includes most of central Houston. She is a member of the Democratic Party.
  34. Lori Lightfoot

    1962 - Present (60 years)
    Lori Elaine Lightfoot is an American attorney and politician serving since 2019 as the 56th mayor of Chicago. She is a member of the Democratic Party. Before becoming mayor, Lightfoot worked in private legal practice as a partner at Mayer Brown and held various government positions in Chicago. Most notably, she served as president of the Chicago Police Board and chair of the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force. Lightfoot ran for Mayor of Chicago in 2019, advancing to a runoff election against Toni Preckwinkle in the February 2019 election. She defeated Preckwinkle in the runoff on April ...
  35. Raymond Lohier

    1965 - Present (57 years)
    Raymond Joseph Lohier Jr. is a Canadian-born American lawyer and jurist who serves as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Formerly, he was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Senior Trial Attorney in the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. He was the chief of the securities and commodities fraud task force in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s office. He was recommended by New York Senator Charles Schumer for the nomination to the seat on the United States Court...
  36. Thurgood Marshall

    1908 - 1993 (85 years)
    Thurgood Marshall was an American lawyer and civil rights activist who served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the Court’s first African-American justice. Prior to his judicial service, he successfully argued several cases before the Supreme Court, including Brown v. Board of Education.
  37. James Meredith

    1933 - Present (89 years)
    James Howard Meredith is the first African-American student admitted to the racially segregated University of Mississippi. He is also an American civil rights movement figure, writer, political adviser, and Air Force veteran. It was in 1962 that Meredith became the first African-American student admitted to the theretofore segregated University of Mississippi, after the intervention of the federal government, an event that was a flashpoint in the civil rights movement. Inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, Meredith decided to exercise his constitutional rights and apply ...
  38. Patricia Millett

    1963 - Present (59 years)
    Patricia Ann Millett is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She formerly headed the Supreme Court practice at the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Millett also was a longtime former assistant to the United States Solicitor General and served as an occasional blogger for SCOTUSblog. At the time of her confirmation to the D.C. Circuit, she had argued 32 cases before the United States Supreme Court. In February 2016 The New York Times identified her as a potential nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.
  39. Adrienne Nelson

    1967 - Present (55 years)
    Adrienne Nelson is an American lawyer and judge who is an associate justice of the Oregon Supreme Court. She previously served as a judge on the Multnomah County Circuit Court from 2006 to 2018. Early life and career Nelson was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1967, and grew up in southwest Arkansas. She graduated from Gurdon High School in Gurdon, Arkansas in 1985. Nelson’s mother successfully sued her school district to allow Nelson to be valedictorian, after her high school initially named a white student with a lower GPA to be valedictorian instead.
  40. Barack Obama

    1961 - Present (61 years)
    Barack Hussein Obama II is an American politician who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, Obama was the first African-American president of the United States. He previously served as a U.S. senator from Illinois from 2005 to 2008 and as an Illinois state senator from 1997 to 2004.
  41. Morris Overstreet

    1950 - Present (72 years)
    Morris L. Overstreet is the first African-American elected to a statewide office in the history of the State of Texas. He was twice elected to serve on the state’s highest criminal appellate court, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, from 1990 to 1998. As a member of the Court, he authored over 500 opinions.
  42. Charles B. Rangel

    1930 - Present (92 years)
    Charles Bernard Rangel is an American politician who was a U.S. representative for districts in New York from 1971 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the second-longest serving incumbent member of the House of Representatives at the time of his retirement, serving continuously since 1971. As its most senior member, he was also the Dean of New York’s congressional delegation. Rangel was the first African American Chair of the influential House Ways and Means Committee. He is also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
  43. Leah Ward Sears

    1955 - Present (67 years)
    Leah Ward Sears is an American jurist and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. Sears was the first African-American female chief justice of a state supreme court in the United States. When she was first appointed as justice in 1992 by Governor Zell Miller, she became the first woman and youngest person to sit on Georgia’s Supreme Court.
  44. DeMaurice Smith

    1964 - Present (58 years)
    DeMaurice F. “De” Smith is the Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association . He was elected unanimously on March 15, 2009. As Executive Director of the NFLPA during the 2011 NFL lockout, Smith played a major role in helping the players and NFL owners come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.
  45. Bryan Stevenson

    1959 - Present (63 years)
    Bryan Stevenson is an American lawyer, social justice activist, law professor at New York University School of Law and the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, he has challenged bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system, especially children. He has helped achieve United States Supreme Court decisions that prohibit sentencing children under 18 to death or to life imprisonment without parole. He has assisted in cases that have saved dozens of prisoners from the death penalty, advocated for the poor, as well as de...
  46. Carl E. Stewart

    1950 - Present (72 years)
    Carl E. Stewart is a United States federal judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Appointed by Bill Clinton in 1994, Stewart previously sat on the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit in Shreveport.
  47. Emmet G. Sullivan

    1947 - Present (75 years)
    Emmet Gael Sullivan is an American attorney and jurist serving as a Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Howard University. He worked in private practice for more than a decade at Houston & Gardner, becoming a name partner in 1980. He was appointed to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals as an Associate Judge in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush, and to the federal bench in 1994 by Preside...
  48. Clarence Thomas

    1948 - Present (74 years)
    Clarence Thomas is an American lawyer who serves as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was nominated by President George H. W. Bush to succeed Thurgood Marshall, and has served since 1991. Thomas is the second African-American to serve on the Court, after Marshall. Since 2018, Thomas has been the senior associate justice, the longest-serving member of the Court, with a tenure of as of .
  49. Kenneth P. Thompson

    1966 - 2016 (50 years)
    Kenneth P. Thompson was an American lawyer who served as the District Attorney of Kings County, New York, from 2014 until his death from cancer on October 9, 2016. Early life and education Kenneth Thompson’s parents, William and Clara Thompson, divorced in his early childhood. In 1973, Clara became one of the first patrolwomen in the New York City Police Department.
  50. Paul J. Watford

    1967 - Present (55 years)
    Paul Jeffrey Watford is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In February 2016, The New York Times identified Watford as a potential Supreme Court nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.
  51. Robert L. Wilkins

    1963 - Present (59 years)
    Robert Leon Wilkins is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Early life and education Wilkins was born in 1963 in Muncie, Indiana, where he was raised by a single mother. He studied chemical engineering at Rose–Hulman Institute of Technology and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1986. Wilkins then earned his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1989.
  52. Ann Claire Williams

    1949 - Present (73 years)
    Ann Claire Williams is a retired United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and a former United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. She is currently of counsel at Jones Day.
  53. Patricia J. Williams

    1951 - Present (71 years)
    Patricia J. Williams is an American legal scholar and a proponent of critical race theory, a school of legal thought that emphasizes race as a fundamental determinant of the American legal system. Early life Williams received her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College in 1972, and her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1975.

This list is far from exhaustive; if you have a suggestion for someone to add, please contact us.

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Associations for Black Legal Scholars

For more the most famous Black scholars of the last 30 years, visit our Influential Black Scholars page.

Other Influential Black Scholars by Academic Discipline

Featured Image Credits Include:

  • Clarence Thomas, By Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States - Clarence Thomas - The Oyez Project, Public Domain
  • Stephen L. Carter, By fourandsixty - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
  • Lani Guinier, By John Mathew Smith from Laurel, Maryland, USA - Lani Guinier, CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, By Mohamed Badarne - Kimberlé CrenshawHeinrich-Böll-Stiftung from Berlin, Deutschland, CC BY-SA 4.0.
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