Lani Guinier, civil rights champion and Harvard law professor, dies at 71



In April 1993, then-President Bill Clinton, a former classmate of Ms. Guinier at Yale Law School, appointed her assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Republican U.S. senators and conservative media figures, however, quickly objected to her nomination, and Clinton withdrew her nomination.

“On April 30, a Wall Street Journal columnist coined the murderous epithet: Clinton’s Quota Queen,” she wrote in a New York Times essay the following February.

After Clinton withdrew her nomination, she spoke at a press conference about the experience.

“I always wanted to be a civil rights lawyer,” she said, according to a transcription posted on the BlackPast.org website.

“I deeply regret not having the opportunity to work in the civil service of the Civil Rights Division,” she added. “I am very disappointed that I did not have the opportunity to move forward to be confirmed and to work closely together to move this country away from the polarization of the past 12 years, to lower the decibel level of the rhetoric that surrounds race, and to Build Bridges Between People of Goodwill to uphold civil rights laws on behalf of all Americans. ”

the son of Mme Guinier, Niko bowie, an assistant professor at Harvard Law School, was a young boy at the time of the appointment.

“My mother taught me the meaning of courage very early on,” he said on Friday, recalling that she had refused to deny her previous work, which had drawn criticism from the conservatives.

“She taught me that a principle is far more important and courage is far more important than any position anyone can give you,” he said. “The idea of ​​getting something like a date is great, but sacrificing something that is important to you is never worth it. “

A graduate of Radcliffe College and Yale Law School, Ms. Guinier was born in New York City in 1950.

She was the daughter of Ewart Guinier, the first president from the Department of African-American Studies at Harvard, and Eugenie Paprin Guinier, who was known as Genii. Ms. Guinier’s mother was a civil rights activist, speech therapist and high school English teacher.

In 1986, Mme Guinier married Nolan bowie, a lawyer who is a distinguished fellow of the Kennedy School of Government and who has taught at Temple University in Philadelphia.

In a tribute to the Harvard Law School community, John F. Manning, the Dean of the Law School, wrote that “Ms. Guinier’s scholarship has changed our understanding of democracy – why and how the voices of historically under-represented people are to be heard and what it takes to have meaningful voting rights. It has also transformed our understanding of the education system and what we need to do to create opportunities for all members of our diverse society to learn, grow and thrive in school and beyond.

Besides her husband and her son, Mme Guinier leaves behind three sisters, Chlotilde Stenson, Sary Guinier and Marie Guinier; and a granddaughter, Cora, who was born three years ago and whom she saw regularly before the pandemic.

A commemorative gathering to celebrate the life and work of Ms. Guinier will be announced.

“Lani dedicated her life to justice, equality, empowerment and democracy and in doing so made the world a better place,” Manning wrote. “Her voice, her wisdom, her integrity, her bravery, her concern for others, her imagination and rigorous thinking, and her unfailing sense of justice will inspire those who knew her and those who come to know her life and legacy.” over the years. to come.”

A full obituary will follow.


Bryan Marquard can be reached at [email protected]


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