Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw

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Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw
Born 1959
Nationality American
Alma mater Cornell University
Occupation Academic, lawyer

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (born 1959) is an American civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory. She is a full professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, where she specializes in race and gender issues.[1] She is known for the introduction and development of intersectional theory, the study of how overlapping or intersecting social identities, particularly minority identities, relate to systems and structures of oppression, domination, or discrimination.[2]

Early life and education

Crenshaw was born in Canton, Ohio in 1959, to parents Marian and Walter Clarence Crenshaw, Jr.[3]

Crenshaw attended Canton McKinley High School. She received a bachelor's degree in government and Africana studies from Cornell University[4] in 1981, where she was a member of the Quill and Dagger senior honors society.[citation needed] She received a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1984.[5] In 1985, she received an LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she was a William H. Hastie Fellow, and law clerk to Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Shirley Abrahamson.[6][7]


Following completion of her LL.M, Crenshaw joined the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law in 1986. She is a founder of the field of critical race theory, and a lecturer on civil rights, critical race studies, and constitutional law.[4] In 1991 and 1994, she was elected professor of the year by matriculating students.[8] In 1995, Crenshaw was appointed as full professor at Columbia Law School, where she is the founder and director of the Center for Intersectionality & Social Policy Studies, established in 2011.[6][8][9]

In 1996, she co-founded and is the executive director of the nonprofit think tank and information clearinghouse, The African American Policy Forum, which focuses on issues of gender and diversity. Its mission is to build bridges between scholarly research and public discourse in addressing inequality and discrimination. Crenshaw has been awarded the Fulbright Chair for Latin America in Brazil, and in 2008, she was awarded an in-residence fellowship at the Center of Advanced Behavioral Studies at Stanford.

In 1991, Crenshaw assisted the legal team representing Anita Hill at the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.[10]

Crenshaw is the co-founder and executive director of the African American Policy Forum (AAPF), a think tank focused on "dismantling structural inequality" and "advancing and expanding racial justice, gender equality, and the indivisibility of all human rights, both in the U.S. and internationally."[11][12]

In 2001, she wrote the background paper on Race and Gender Discrimination for the United Nations World Conference on Racism, helped to facilitate the addition of gender in the WCAR Conference Declaration, served as a member of the National Science Foundation's Committee to Research Violence Against Women and the National Research Council panel on Research on Violence Against Women. Crenshaw is a member of the Domestic Strategy Group at the Aspen Institute, the Women's Media Initiative, and is a regular commentator on NPR's The Tavis Smiley Show.[citation needed]


Crenshaw's work has been cited as influential in the drafting of the equality clause in the Constitution of South Africa.[12]

She contributed the piece "Traffic at the Crossroads: Multiple Oppressions" to the 2003 anthology Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium, edited by Robin Morgan.[13]

Crenshaw attended the Women of the World festival which took place from 8–13 March 2016 at the Southbank Centre in London, England.[1] She delivered a keynote speech on the unique challenges facing women of colour when it comes to the struggle for gender equality, racial justice and well-being. A key challenge is police brutality against black women, she highlighted the #SayHerName campaign which is aimed at uplifting the stories of black women killed by the police.[2]


External video
Kimberlé Crenshaw - On Intersectionality - keynote - WOW 2016: Southbank Centre[14]

Kimberle Crenshaw introduced the theory of intersectionality to feminist theory in the 1980s.[2] Although the concept of intersectionality was not new it was not formally recognized until Crenshaw’s theory. Her inspiration for the theory started while she was still in college and she realized that the gender aspect of race was extremely underdeveloped. The realization came after she noticed at the school she was attending that there were classes offered that addressed both race and gender issues. The courses available discussed women in only literature and poetry classes while men were discussed in serious politics and economics.[2]

Crenshaw's focus on intersectionality is on how the law responds to issues that include gender and race discrimination. The particular challenge in law is that antidiscrimination laws look at gender and race separately and consequently African American women and other women of color experience overlapping forms of discrimination and the law unaware of how to combine the two leave these women with no justice.[2] Antidiscrimination laws and the justice systems attempt for a remedy to discrimination is limited and operates on a singular axes when one flows into another a complete and understandable definition has not been written in law therefore when the issue of intersectionality is presented in the court of law if one form of discrimination cannot be proved without the other than there is no law broken. The law defines discrimination of singular cases where you can only be discriminated based one thing or the other so when enforcing the law they go solely by the definition and if discrimination cannot be proved based on the single definition of one discrimination or the other then there is no crime committed.

Crenshaw often refers to the case DeGraffenreid v. General Motors in writing, interviews, and lectures. In DeGraffenreid v. General Motors, a group of African American women argued they were receiving compound discrimination excluding them from employment opportunity. They contended that although women were eligible for office and secretarial jobs, in practice such positions only were offered to white women, barring African American women from seeking employment in the company. The courts weighed the allegations of race and gender discrimination separately, finding that the employment of African American male factory workers disproved racial discrimination, and the employment of white female office workers disproved gender discrimination. The court declined to consider compound discrimination, and dismissed the case.[2]

Crenshaw also discusses intersectionality in connection to her experience as part of the 1991 legal team for Anita Hill, the woman who accused then- Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.[15] The case drew two crowds expressing contrasting views: white feminists in support of Hill and the opposing members of the African American community that supported Clarence Thomas. The two lines of argument focused on the rights of women and Hill's experience of being violated as a women, on the one hand, and on the other the appeal to forgive Thomas or turn a blind eye to his conduct due to his opportunity to achieve a position of power that had only once before been available to African Americans.

Crenshaw argued that with these two groups rising up against one another during this case, Anita Hill lost her voice as a black woman. She had been unintentionally chosen to support the women's side of things, silencing her racial contribution to the issue. “It was like one of these moments where you literally feel that you have been kicked out of your community, all because you are trying to introduce and talk about the way that African American women have experienced sexual harassment and violence. It was a defining moment.” “Many women who talk about the Anita Hill thing,” Crenshaw adds, “they celebrate what’s happened with women in general…. So sexual harassment is now recognized; what’s not doing as well is the recognition of black women’s unique experiences with discrimination.”

My Brother's Keeper

A nationwide initiative to open up a ladder of opportunities to youth males and males of color.[16] Kimberlé Crenshaw and the other participants of the African American Forum have demonstrated through multiple means of the media to express that the initiative has good intentions but perpetrates for the uplifting of youth but excludes girls and youth girls of color. The AAPF have started a campaign #WHYWECANTWAIT to address the realignment of the "My Brothers Keeper" initiative to include all youth boys, girls, and those girls and boys of color. The movement has received a lot of support from all over letters signed by men of color, letters signed by women of color and letters signed by allies that believe in the cause.

In an interview on the Laura Flanders Show Kimberlé Crenshaw expressed that the program was introduced as response to the widespread grief from the African American community after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the case of his shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenage boy. She describes the program as "feel-good", and fatherly initiative but does not believe that it is a significant or structural program that will help fight the rollback of civil rights; the initiative will not provide the kinds of things that will really make a difference. She believes that because women and girls of color are a part of the same communities and disadvantages as the under-privileged males that are focused in the initiative, that in order to make it an effective program for the communities it needs to include all members of the community girls and boys alike.[citation needed]

  • #Why we can’t wait: Women of Color Urging Inclusion in "My Brother’s Keeper"
  • June 17, 2014 – a letter from over 1000 girls and women of color

The letter is signed by girls and women of all ages, from different backgrounds, ranging from high school teens to professional actors, from civil rights activist to university professors commending President Obama on the efforts of the White House, private philanthropy, and social justice organizations they still urge the inclusion of young women and girls to the initiative. The realignment would be important to reflect the values of inclusion, equal opportunity and shared fate that have propelled our historic struggle for racial justice forward.

  • May 30, 2014 a letter of 200 Concerned Black Men and Other Men of Color calling for the Inclusion of Women and Girls in "My Brothers Keeper" [17]

The letter is signed by a multitude of diverse men with different lifestyles to include scholars, recently incarcerated, taxi drivers, pastors, college students, fathers of sons, fathers of daughters and more. All the men believing that the girls within the communities that these men share homes, schools, recreational areas share a fate with one another and believe that the initiative is lacking in focus if that focus does not include both genders.


She has published works on civil rights, black feminist legal theory, and race, racism, and the law.


  • Critical Race theory:The Key Writings That Formed the Movement

Published: May 1, 1996. It is a compilation of some of the most important writings that formed and sustained the Critical Race Theory (“CRT”) movement. The book includes articles from Derrick Bell, Richard Delgado, Mari Matsuda, Anthony Cook, Duncan Kennedy, Gary Peller, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and others. All of the articles add something to CRT, and read independently, add significant portions to the CRT movement. [3]

  • Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech and the First Amendment
  • On Intersectionality:Essential Writings of Kimberle Crenshaw

Published: June 5, 2012. This book provides readers with an introduction to Kimberle Crenshaw’s work. She provides essays and articles that help define the concept of intersectionality. She provides insight from the Central Park jogger, Anita Hill’s testimony against now Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and other significant matters of public interest. [4]

  • The Race Track:Understanding and Challenging Structural Racism

Published: July 30, 2013

  • Reaffirming Racism:The faulty logic of Colorblindness, Remedy and Diversity

Published: June 4, 2013

  • Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Over Policed and Under Protected

Published: Upcoming publication This is a report based on new reviews of national data and personal interviews with young women in Boston and New York. What started out as just a report we anticipate the book and how it will perform the same task to readers expressing why black girls cannot be abandoned at the margins.[5]

  • Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence against Women of Color

Crenshaw is responding to the tendency within identity politics to overlook or silence intra-group differences, a dynamic repeated throughout anti-racist and feminist movements to the detriment of black women. Crenshaw explores the simultaneously raced and gendered dimensions of violence against women of color (specifically by looking at responses to domestic violence and rape) to draw attention to the way the specificity of black women’s experiences of violence is ignored, overlooked, misrepresented, and/or silenced. Crenshaw focuses on both the structural and political aspects of intersectionality with regards to rape and domestic abuse and uses this analysis of violence against women of color to highlight the importance of intersectionality and of engaging with issues like violence against women through an intersectional lens.[6]

Critical reception

Upon appointing Crenshaw to Columbia Law School, law school dean Lance Liebman described Crenshaw as a "leading law scholar" who "has shed important light on central issues of civil rights law."[8]

Awards and honors


  1. "Reunion Renews Commitment to William H. Hastie Fellowship Legacy | University of Wisconsin Law School". Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Kimberlé Crenshaw on intersectionality: "I wanted to come up with an everyday metaphor that anyone could use"". Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Marian Williams Crenshaw's Obituary on The Repository". The Repository. Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Race, gender scholar Crenshaw on campus Oct. 16-21 | Cornell Chronicle". Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw | Faculty | Columbia Law School". Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Canton native Kimberle Crenshaw receives legal scholar award". The Repository. Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "William H. Hastie Fellowship Program | University of Wisconsin Law School". Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Columbia University Record" (2 ed.). September 15, 1995. Retrieved March 9, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Foundation, American Bar. "UCLA and Columbia Law Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to Receive 2016 Fellows Outstanding Scholar Award - American Bar Foundation". Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Where Are All the Black Feminists in Confirmation?". ELLE. 2016-04-18. Retrieved 2016-04-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Our mission". African American Policy Forum. Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 Poole, Shirley L. The Crisis. NAACP/The Crisis Publishing Company, Inc. Retrieved March 9, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Library Resource Finder: Table of Contents for: Sisterhood is forever : the women's anth". Retrieved 2015-10-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Kimberlé Crenshaw - On Intersectionality - keynote - WOW 2016: Southbank Centre". Southbank Centre at YouTube. Retrieved 31 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  16. "My Brother's Keeper". The White House. Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Why We Can't Wait: Women of Color Urge Inclusion in "My Brother's Keeper"". AAPF. Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 18.0 18.1 "Canton native wins fellowships to study race". The Repository. Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. report, staff. "Kimberle Crenshaw named to Ebony Magazine's 'Power 100'". The Repository. Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Foundation, American Bar. "UCLA and Columbia Law Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to Receive 2016 Fellows Outstanding Scholar Award - American Bar Foundation". Retrieved 2016-03-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


External links