Bryan Stevenson Biography

(American Lawyer, Founder and Executive Director of the ‘Equal Justice Initiative’)

Birthday: November 14, 1959 (Scorpio)

Born In: Milton, Delaware, United States

Bryan Stevenson is an American lawyer, clinical professor, and social activist, who has dedicated his life to the cause of the poor and minorities. Raised in a segregated community, he witnessed discrimination at every level since a tender age. During his internship at the 'Southern Center for Human Rights,' Stevenson learned how the segregated society had been deprived of fair treatment in the judicial system. He established the 'Equal Justice Initiative' in Montgomery, Alabama, to establish uniform legal representation and abolish capital punishment. Working with the organization, Stevenson has successfully presided numerous cases, where racially discriminated convicts have been provided affordable legal assistance, fair verdicts, and reversal of the death sentence. He fought for granting mentally challenged and minor convicts the eligibility for parole. His efforts to ensure social justice have brought about uniformity in the U.S. legal structure to a great extent. Stevenson currently serves as a law professor at the 'New York University School of Law.' He has also been a visiting lecturer of law at 'Harvard,' 'Yale,' and the 'University of Michigan Law Schools.' A prolific public speaker, Stevenson supports the creation of more public-service opportunities and acknowledges the role of law schools in establishing a fairer and uniform legal structure in the country.

Quick Facts

Age: 64 Years, 64 Year Old Males


father: Howard Carlton Stevenson, Sr.

mother: Alice Golden Stevenson

Born Country: United States

Lawyers Social Activists

Notable Alumni: John F. Kennedy School Of Government

Grouping of People: Black Lawyer

U.S. State: Delaware

Founder/Co-Founder: Equal Justice Initiative

More Facts

education: Harvard University, Eastern University, Harvard Law School, John F. Kennedy School Of Government

awards: 2015 · Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption - NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Nonfiction
1995 · Human Rights - MacArthur Fellowship
Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction

2018 - People's Choice Award for People's Champion
Olof Palme Prize
Gruber Prize for Justice
Freedom from Fear

Childhood & Early Years
Bryan Stevenson was born on November 14, 1959, in Milton, Delaware, U.S., to Alice Gertrude Golden, a 'Dover Air Force Base' employee, and Howard Carlton Stevenson, Sr., a laboratory technician at a 'General Foods' processing factory. He grew up in a deprived rural community, where blacks were segregated. Stevenson has an older brother named Howard, Jr. and a sister named Christy.
Growing up, Stevenson sang as a choir member and played the piano at the 'Prospect African Methodist Episcopal Church,' a church his family attended regularly. He was highly influenced by the church, and it later shaped his professional pursuits.
For a year, Stevenson studied at an elementary school for colored children. He was in second grade when his school was unified, but the old segregation rules were still applicable. Stevenson played soccer and baseball for the 'Cape Henlopen High School' in Lewes, Delaware, from where he graduated in 1977. He was the student-union president of the school and actively participated in public-speaking competitions. He also won the 'American Legion' elocution contest.
He was granted a scholarship to the 'Eastern University' in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, from where he graduated, majoring in philosophy, in 1981. He directed the gospel choir of the university.
Stevenson then joined a dual-degree program, studying law at the 'Harvard Law School' and public policy at the 'John F. Kennedy School of Government' of 'Harvard University,' Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In his second year, Stevenson interned under advocate Stephen Bright, working with the Atlanta-based firm known as the 'Southern Center for Human Rights' (previously called the 'Southern Prisoners Defense Committee'). The firm works primarily for the inmates sentenced to capital punishment, throughout the South. The firm also offers legal assistance to the poor and the people of color who have suffered discrimination for ages.
The experience at the 'Southern Center' made Stevenson learn more about the legal representation of such convicts involved in capital cases. He dedicated the rest of his life to the rights of capital defendants.
In 1985, Stevenson graduated with an MA degree in public policy from the ‘John F. Kennedy School of Government.' He also received a Juris Doctor from 'Harvard Law School.'
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Stevenson rejoined the 'Southern Center for Human Rights' in Atlanta in 1985 as a full-time staff attorney. He defended Warren McClesky, who was sentenced to death in the 1987 'McClesky v. Kemp' case.
From 1989 to 1995, Stevenson served as the executive director of the 'Alabama Capital Representation Resource Center,' where he represented convicts sentenced to capital punishment. The ‘Congress’ funded the organization.
In 1994, the government reduced the funding for the 'Southern Center.' Stevenson then decided to work independently and used his resources to continue fighting for the rights of discriminated groups and inmates. He established the 'Equal Justice Initiative' (EJI) in 1995 and served as its executive director.
He procured funds for the establishment with his 'MacArthur Fellowship.' Based in Montgomery, Alabama, the ‘EJI’ is a private, non-profit law firm that represents indigent defendants and prisoners and provides them fair and impartial treatment in the judicial system, something they have been denied for decades. Through the ‘EJI,’ Stevenson attempted to make the criminal justice system fairer and free of any prejudice.
Working with the ‘EJI,’ over the years, Stevenson has successfully reversed and reduced death sentences. The ‘EJI’ also trains and counsels lawyers representing death-row inmates.
Stevenson wants to bring in a fair procedure to review sentences, abolish capital punishment, and provide parole-eligible re-sentencing for minor inmates.
Stevenson has also assisted Russian lawmakers in reversing around 800 death sentences during the Yeltsin era. He has worked with several law firms in Eastern Europe to structure a legal procedure in favor of the oppressed groups. He has also worked with Caribbean lawyers to abolish executions.

In 1998, Bryan Stevenson joined the clinical faculty of the 'New York University Law School.' He currently serves as a professor of law at the same school.

Stevenson's memoir, 'Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,' was published in 2014. It made a place on 'Time' magazine's "10 Best Books of Nonfiction" list that year. It was also featured on the "100 Notable Books" list of 'The New York Times.'
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In 2015, the 'American Library Association' honored the memoir with the 'Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.' The book also received the 'Dayton Literary Peace Prize.'
In February 2017, the 'Ford Foundation' appointed Stevenson as a member of its board of trustees.

In 2018, Bryan Stevenson launched the 'Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration' and the 'National Memorial for Peace and Justice.' These national landmark institutions provide a glimpse into the incidents of racial discrimination, slavery, lynching, mass incarceration, and other atrocities that the blacks in America have suffered through the ages.

'Just Mercy' has been adapted into a film of the same name. It premiered at the 'Toronto International Film Festival' in September 2019. Actor Michael B. Jordan portrayed Stevenson in the film.
The film hit the theaters on December 25, 2019. It won the 'National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications' at the 26th annual 'Vision Award' and bagged a nomination for a 'Peabody Award.'
Stevenson is a public speaker, too, and conducts sessions to raise funds for the ‘EJI.’ His 2012 ‘TED’ speech in Long Beach, California, is available on the internet.
He has previously served as a visiting professor of law at the 'University of Michigan School of Law.' He has also published numerous manuals on capital litigation. Many of his literary pieces on criminal justice, capital punishment, and civil rights issues are now widely available.
Awards & Honors

Bryan Stevenson has received several awards, including the 'Reebok Human Rights Award' (1989), the 'ACLU National Medal of Liberty' (1991), and the 'MacArthur Fellowship Award Prize' (1995).

In 1996, the 'National Association of Public Interest Lawyers' named him the ''Public Interest Lawyer of the Year.'' He received the 'Olaf Palme Prize' in Stockholm, Sweden in 2000, for his efforts toward protecting international human rights.
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In 2003, the 'Society of American Law Teachers' presented Stevenson the 'SALT Human Rights Award.' The following year, he received the 'Award for Courageous Advocacy' from the 'American College of Trial Lawyers' and the 'Lawyer for the People Award' from the 'National Lawyers Guild.’
In 2006, 'New York University' presented Stevenson the 'Distinguished Teaching Award.'

In 2012, Bryan Stevenson received the 'Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Fred L. Shuttlesworth Award,' the 'American Psychiatric Association Human Rights Award,' and the 'Smithsonian Magazine American Ingenuity Award in Social Progress.'

In 2014, he was inducted into the 'American Academy of Arts and Science.' He also received the 'Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize' that year.
In 2016, he received the 'Thurgood Marshall Award' from the 'American Bar Association.' The 'King Center' in Atlanta awarded him the 'Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize' in 2018.

Bryan Stevenson has also received the 'NAACP William Robert Ming Advocacy Award,' the 'Gruber Foundation International Justice Prize,' the 'Ford Foundation Visionaries Award,' the 'National Legal Aid & Defender Association Lifetime Achievement Award,' and the 'Roosevelt Institute Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom from Fear Award.'

He has also received honorary degrees from many universities and colleges, such as the 'Stritch School of Medicine' (2011), the 'University of Delaware' (2016), the 'Williams College' (2016), the 'University of Mississippi' (2017), 'Northeastern University' (2017), 'Harvard University,' 'Yale University,' 'Princeton University,' the 'University of Pennsylvania,' the 'Georgetown University School of Law,' and 'Loyola University Chicago.'
Stevenson also received a Doctor of Humane Letters, ''honoris causa,'' from the 'College of the Holy Cross' in 2015 and an honorary degree from 'Wesleyan University' in 2016.

South African Anglican cleric and theologian Archbishop Desmond Tutu has described Bryan Stevenson as "America's Nelson Mandela."

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