Kimberelé Crenshaw Awarded Doctor of Laws from Smith College

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New York, New York -- May 23, 2018 -- The African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies are pleased to announce that Kimberlé Crenshaw, leading authority on civil rights and Black feminist legal thought, was awarded with an honorary degree from Smith College with the Class of 2018 alongside fellow honorands Carol Christ, Rita Dove, Bob Pura, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

Smith College honorary degrees are awarded to “women who are exemplars of excellence in a wide range of fields, both academic and non-academic,” who “have had special impact on Smith College, on the education of women, [and] or on women’s lives.”

Smith President Kathleen McCartney spoke at length about the wide-ranging contributions and professional achievements Professor Crenshaw has accrued over the course of her decorated career:

Your influential writings and lectures on critical race theory have exposed the
chasms that racism has carved into American society—and especially into its legal
system. Through your pioneering work on intersectionality, you have shown that
the injustice of a complex world cannot be reduced to narrow efforts defined by
single qualifiers—black or female or LGBTQ or poor or indigenous. You have
shown that only by understanding the convergence of multiple forms of
disempowerment can we begin to address inequity—to, as you wrote in 1989,
"Recenter discrimination discourse at the intersection." You tell us that without
this revised perspective, "some of us, the most vulnerable, are going to fall
through the cracks." Through your scholarship and tenure as distinguished
professor of law at both UCLA and Columbia universities, you have opened our
eyes to inequalities that were unrecognized and unaddressed. For your work in
naming and untangling complex systems of oppression and privilege, Smith
College is proud to award you the degree of Doctor of Laws,
honoris causa.

Crenshaw directs Columbia’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, which she founded in 2011. She is also co-founder and executive director of the African American Policy Forum, a think tank that promotes efforts to dismantle structural inequality. The focus of Crenshaw’s research and advocacy in recent years has been encapsulated in two reports and corresponding political campaigns: Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected examines the ways in which Black girls and other girls of color are impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline; and Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women, a report on the stories of Black women killed by the police.

Smith College’s honor is a reflection of Crenshaw’s tireless work to uplift and center the needs of those most marginalized within our society and amongst social justice movements. In recent months, Crenshaw was also honored with the prestigious Brandeis University Gittler Prize for her “outstanding and lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic and/or religious relations.” In March 2018, Good Houskeeping named Crenshaw one of ten top women “Changing the World.” And earlier in May, the New York Women’s Foundation (NYWF) awarded Crenshaw the “Celebrating Women Award” for her significant achievements at their annual Celebrating Women Breakfast, which boasted over two thousand attendees.

“[Crenshaw] has witnessed our deepest pain,” said Rhanda Dormeus, mother of Korryn Gaines and advocate of the #SayHerName campaign, during the recent NYWF event. “She has become our rock, […] she keeps us going.”

"She is an extraordinary intellectual and a woman who puts her life on the line for others," said Eve Ensler, a playwright, performer, activist, and board member of the African American Policy Forum. "We honor and celebrate Kim for the depth, generosity and radical radiance of her attention.”

The honorary Doctor of Laws was bestowed during Smith’s 2018 Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 20, 2018 at 10:00am. Throughout the weekend, Crenshaw also sat on a panel featuring the 2018 Smith Honorads and attended celebratory events alongside Smith College students, faculty, trustees, and members of the Office of the President.

More information on Crenshaw’s honorary degree from Smith College can be found here:

Footage of the Smith 2018 Commencement Ceremony is available here:


The African American Policy Forum (AAPF) is a social justice think tank that brings new voices and broader frames to social justice practice in contemporary America. In partnership with the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, AAPF promotes an intersectional approach to confronting discrimination in order to address the complex needs of marginalized communities. Through public education, youth development, research, trainings, and advocacy, AAPF has elevated the experiences of underrepresented constituencies to enable a more inclusive vision of social justice.

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