Page 7 - RWU Law / Issue#4 Fall 2012

The Magazine of Roger Williams University School of Law
5
When Martha Minow, 12th dean of
Harvard Law School, delivered the 2012
Thurgood Marshall Memorial Lecture
on the legacy of the seminal 1955
desegregation case
Brown v. Board of
Education
,
the RWU Law community was
treated to the rarest of inside glimpses.
After all, Dean Minow not only served
as law clerk to Justice Marshall, but also
as law professor to a future U.S. Supreme
Court Justice (Elena Kagan) and a future
President of the United States (Barack
Obama). She focused on the racial context
that produced the
Brown
case and the
almost-mythic status it has since attained
as “the touchstone for what a court can do
when it acts with justice.”
In the post-WW-II years leading up to
Brown
,
Minow said, racial segregation had
become an international embarrassment
for the U.S., negatively affecting its
national prestige and influence (even
foreign ambassadors and diplomats of
color were frequently insulted by U.S.
laws), while providing grist for the Soviet
propaganda mill, which depicted the U.S.
as a hypocritical and oppressive power.
Brown
,
Minow said, marked “the coming
of awareness in this country that we’re in
a global context, and the shame that this
Harvard Law Dean Explores
Brown
Legacy
country actually experienced when the
world looked at how we treated people
in our own country.”
In later years, Minow added, both
Brown
and Marshall himself helped the
U.S. rise above that shame. Marshall, for
example, played a vital role in helping
Kenya and other emerging post-colonial
African nations to draft constitutions. And
Brown has been cited in cases around the
globe – notably in Israel, South Africa,
Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic,
where the Roma (Gypsy) people have
found a narrative addressing their own
experience of oppression over the centuries.