Lani Guinier, Voting and Civil Rights Theorist and Legal Scholar, Dies at 71

She was the first Black woman to be given tenure at Harvard Law School, but faced attacks from conservatives later in her career.

Lani Guinier, the first Black woman to earn tenure at Harvard Law School has died at age 71. The New York Times reports that a cousin of the legal scholar, Sherrie Russell-Brown, confirmed Guinier’s death and provided no further details regarding a cause of death. School officials said she was surrounded by family at the time of her passing.

A champion for voting rights, and a civil rights theorist, Guinier came to national prominence in 1993, when then-President Bill Clinton, a Yale Law School classmate of Guinier’s, nominated her to be assistant attorney general for civil rights.  Guinier was attacked by conservatives in the media and Senate Republicans over her writing on voting and civil rights, causing Clinton to eventually withdraw her nomination without a confirmation hearing.

She served as a special assistant in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during the Carter administration, and worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she headed the voting rights project.

One of her legal arguments was that the concept of “one person, one vote” was insufficient in a system where the interests of minorities, racial, religious or otherwise, were inevitably trampled by those of the majority.

RELATED: History Matters in University of Texas Affirmative Action Case

Sherillyn Ifill, President & Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund shared her condolences for the woman she called her mentor online.

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