The keynote speaker for the 2022 Summer Forum is Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice. Ms. Clarke has dedicated her entire legal career to fighting for civil rights and racial justice. She is a true servant of justice and an outstanding leader.
She was born and grew up in Brooklyn. Her parents were immigrants from Jamaica who came to the United States because they wanted their children to have access to better schools and career opportunities. From her parents, Ms. Clarke learned the value of discipline, working hard, and making the most of every opportunity. She attended Choate Rosemary Hall, the same private, college-prep boarding school in Connecticut that JFK attended. While there, she stood out as the only girl to join the boys’ wrestling squad.
Ms. Clarke attended and earned her Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, where she was president of the Black Student’s Association. In 2000, she graduated from Columbia Law School and began working as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division through the Department of Justice’s Honors Program. During her six years working in the Civil Rights Division, Ms. Clarke worked in both the Voting Section, where she handled voting rights and redistricting cases, and the Criminal Section, where she prosecuted police misconduct and brutality cases, hate crimes, and human trafficking cases.
In 2006, she joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, focusing on issues of voting rights and election law. She presented the oral argument to the D.C. District Court in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. Five years later, in 2011, Ms. Clarke was named the head of the Civil Rights Bureau for the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Her work there focused on ending discrimination in education, housing, lending, policing, and more.
In 2015, Ms. Clarke was named the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an organization founded by JFK. Under Ms. Clarke’s leadership, the Lawyers’ Committee sought to address some of the nation’s most complex racial justice and civil rights challenges. Her work included defending civil rights, fighting hate and bias, and protecting and promoting voting rights and fair elections. During her tenure, the Lawyers’ Committee filed more than 250 cases to safeguard civil rights nationwide.
Last year, President Biden nominated Ms. Clarke to lead the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and she was confirmed on May 25, 2021. She is the first Black woman to lead the Civil Rights Division. Ms. Clarke has said that she aims to “turn the page on hate and close the door on discrimination by enforcing our federal civil rights laws.”
We are looking forward to hearing from Ms. Clarke about the important milestones in her work and the importance of pro bono and public-interest lawyers in the fight for civil rights and an equitable society.
The Summer Forum Keynote will take place on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, from 12:00-2:00 pm ET. Register here to attend and follow the conversation on social media using #SumFo22 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.