Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw Honored as a Southern California Freedom’s Sister

Recognition Reflects Crenshaw's Scholarship and Contribution to the Cause of Civil Rights in America

New York, Jan. 23, 2012Columbia Law School Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw has been named a Southern California Freedom’s Sister by the Los Angeles–based Museum of Tolerance. Freedom’s Sisters is a traveling exhibition that pays homage to a group of extraordinary African-American women who have been influential in shaping the spirit and substance of civil rights in America.

The Museum of Tolerance bestowed the honor on Crenshaw in recognition of her scholarship and influence, according to Liebe Geft, the museum’s director.
“Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work on social justice and intersectionality is world-renowned,” said Geft. “She is a personal role model, and her work is benefiting so many people. We’re delighted that she accepted the honor.”
Crenshaw is director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, which examines systemic discrimination, or how social structures and related identity categories such as gender, race, and class interact on multiple levels to create social inequality.
The Freedom’s Sisters exhibit has been shown in 11 cities, including Los Angeles, where it ran at the Museum of Tolerance from Sept. 14 to Jan. 18. The Ford Motor Company Fund, which is sponsoring the tour, invites each host museum to select a group of contemporary Freedom’s Sisters who provide leadership and inspiration. Photos and bios of the local contemporary sisters are included in each museum’s exhibit, along with photos and bios of 20 national contemporary and historical civil rights pioneers.
The show’s historical figures include the late civil rights activists Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman, as well as the late Shirley Chisholm, the U.S. representative from New York who was the first black woman elected to Congress. Other contemporary honorees in Southern California include civil rights lawyer Constance Rice, Loyola Law School professor Kimberle West-Faulcon, and Karen Bass, a U.S. Representative for California and former speaker of the California state assembly.
Crenshaw attended a luncheon on Jan. 8 at the Museum of Tolerance that represented the first time the entire Southern California faction of Freedom’s Sisters had a chance to meet and discuss the causes that are important to them. Each honoree was asked what message she would impart to young women as inspiration.
Geft recalled being struck by Crenshaw’s response, which was, “Silence doesn’t purchase freedom.”
Crenshaw has written widely on civil rights; black feminist legal theory; and race, racism, and the law. Her work has appeared in academic journals such as the Harvard Law Review and the Stanford Law Journal, as well as in mainstream news outlets, including Ms. magazine and The Nation.
In the early 1990s, Crenshaw served on the legal team representing Anita Hill, and in 1996, she co-founded the African American Policy Forum, which seeks to highlight the centrality of gender in racial justice discourse. In 2001, she authored the background paper on Race and Gender Discrimination for the United Nation’s World Conference against Racism, and served as the rapporteur for the Expert Group on Race and Gender. She has also held the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Latin America.
The Freedom’s Sisters exhibit was created by Cincinnati Museum Center and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Its next stop is the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in New York City. That show, incorporating its own contemporary Freedom’s Sisters, will open to the public on Feb. 4 and run through April 22.