Johnson Takes Over as Director of Center for Study of Race and Law

September 16, 2010

Professor Alex Johnson recently became the new director of the Law School's Center for the Study of Race and Law.

Alex Johnson
Alex Johnson

Johnson, a well-known critical race theorist, has served on the Law School's faculty for more than 20 years. He hopes to expand the program's offerings, which have traditionally included an annual short course and lecture, a scholarly paper competition, and occasional conferences held in conjunction with other organizations.

In the future, Johnson said the Center for the Study of Race and Law could feature additional course offerings, including a regularly offered critical race theory course. He also hopes the center can support a position for an endowed lecturer and a quarterly or semi-annual publication.

"I'd like to see the visibility of the center raised with the students," Johnson said."We want all students to participate in our programs. We are looking at the intersection of race and law, and that affects everyone, not only students of color."

Johnson said the Center for the Study of Race and Law has the potential to effect change far beyond the law school. The program will provide students with insight into important issues they will likely face when they enter the professional world.

"The students will take knowledge of these issues with them to their professional enterprises," Johnson said."They'll think these are important issues, and when they become members of the bar and the bench, they'll be in positions to effectuate change and act upon their knowledge. They will have important jobs, and they will make a difference."

While some believe the election of President Barack Obama shows that race is no longer a salient issue in the United States, Johnson rejects that theory. He wishes to remind students that, beyond the walls of the University of Virginia, there are still acts of overt and egregious racism.

"One could believe, in this environment, that we have finally achieved Martin Luther King's dream, which is true integration in American society and the elimination of racial discrimination," Johnson said."But, in the real world, outside these hallowed halls, nothing could be further from the truth. We are here to explore these issues, to remind the students that race continues to be an issue, to try to overcome the problems created by race."

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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