Civil Rights Attorney Sherrilyn Ifill to Receive 2022 Radcliffe Medal

The educator and lawyer receives the Institute’s highest honor.

Sherrilyn Ifill
Sherrilyn IfillPhotograph courtesy of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, will receive the Radcliffe Medal on May 27, 2022, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study announced on Friday. The lawyer and scholar will join Madeleine Albright, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and other world leaders as recipients of the Institute’s highest honor since the award’s inception in 1987.

“Sherrilyn embodies Radcliffe’s highest ideals,” said Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of the Radcliffe Institute. “She is an influential scholar and educator, and she is deeply engaged in the hard work of change making. As a nation, we owe a great deal to her pathbreaking leadership.”

Ifill began her work at the Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1988, when she joined as an assistant counsel in the New York office. Since then she has litigated numerous voting-rights cases, including the Supreme Court case Houston Lawyers’ Association v. Attorney General of Texas, which extended protections from the Voting Rights Act to elections for judges. Ifill has also served on the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Law since 1993, where she teaches civil procedure, constitutional law, and several seminars. While on the faculty, Ifill launched one of the first legal clinics in the nation focused on removing legal barriers to formerly incarcerated persons seeking to re-enter society.

A prominent legal writer, Ifill’s book On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-first Century (Beacon Press, 2007) analyzes the roles of race and racism in American public life. In 2021, she was recognized as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Ifill will receive the Radcliffe Medal at the conclusion of a Radcliffe Day program centered on access to higher education. A panel featuring Anthony P. Carnevale, Leslie Cornfeld ’81, J.D. ’85, Pam Eddinger, and Donna Shalala­—and moderated by Ackman professor of public economics Raj Chetty—will lead the program. It will be followed by a keynote conversation by former Law School dean Martha Minow and a special video message by Bryan Stevenson, J.D.-M.P.A.’85, LL.D. ’15, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. The awarding of the 2022 Radcliffe Medal will conclude the program.

Read the full Radcliffe announcement here.

Read more articles by: Jacob Sweet

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