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From the Avant Guardian

With fist raised, Raj Sethuraju, helps carry a mock coffin during a silent march for justice for George Floyd in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota on the day before the beginning of the trial of Derek Chauvin.

A Statement by the William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice on Derek Chauvin’s Prison Sentence for the Murder of George Floyd

There are three words to keep in mind as to Derek Chauvin’s prison sentence: severity, rarity, and legitimacy. Americans will judge this sentence, based on both the severity of the sentence and the rarity of punishing police, to determine its legitimacy. This rarity of police accountability and the modest severity of the Chauvin sentence in no way guaranties the legitimacy of this sentence. What it does suggest is that more needs to be done and can be done. This is not a moment of celebration and satisfaction; we must remain focused on the movement to transform our criminal legal system. Overwhelmingly, police officers are not removed for misconduct in the United States. Chauvin himself was involved in at least 18 police misconduct cases before the murder of George Floyd. Overwhelmingly, police officers are not arrested, convicted, or sentenced for brutality and abuse of power. In fact, fewer than 2% of killings by police over the past 8 years have resulted in an officer even being charged with a crime. And overwhelmingly, police officers are not accountable to their victims due to qualified immunity shielding them from prosecution. While we mark this moment of sentencing and accountability, we know it is not a call

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This convening is created for activists, advocates, academics and artists who work at the grassroots level, to teach advocacy skills and create a national coalition of social justice collaborators. We focus on three critical concerns: democracy, criminal legal system transformation, and COVID 19 pandemic resilience. Hear inspiring keynote addresses, dynamic panel discussions, and experience an engaging teaching experience on advocacy.

The William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice at the Harvard Kennedy School has an educational guide developed by its faculty director and “People v. The Klan” executive producer Cornell William Brooks that offers historical context on the issues at the center of the series. The guide includes several resources where you can learn more about the history of lynching in America; the civil case of Beulah Mae Donald v. the United Klans of America; the criminal cases on behalf of Michael Donald; and the events in “The People v. the Klan” created by Blumhouse Television. You may download the guide here.  

The Latest

Professor Cornell William Brooks
March 19, 2021

Cornell William Brooks, the Hauser Professor of the Practice of Nonprofit Organizations and Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice at Harvard Kennedy School, today was awarded two prestigious Irish prizes recognizing his decades of leadership and service in the cause of civil rights.

At a virtual ceremony held in Dublin, Brooks received the Praeses Elit Award from Trinity College Dublin Law Society as well as the Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage from the University Philosophical Society. The Praeses Elit Award was founded by Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and United Nations high commissioner for refugees. The university’s Philosophical Society was founded in 1683 and is among the oldest student societies in the world.

about us

Building Coalitions to Change
Policy and Empower People

Conceived in 2018, the William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership advances the social justice and civil rights legacy of William Monroe Trotter. We foster research on excellence in social justice and collaboration with local and national level organizations operating in the spheres of public interest and policy, as well as in the areas of community engagement and government. We conduct and employ applied research that supports efforts to promote advocacy, citizen activism, and impactful, non-partisan policy solutions to civil rights and social justice issues. Through this pedagogy, the Trotter Collaborative meaningfully addresses local and national civil rights challenges.


“Education and work are levers to uplift a people. Work alone will not do it unless inspired by the right ideals and guided by intelligence. Education must not only teach work-it must teach life.”
-W.E.B. Dubois


Wrongs That We Must Right

In this modern day, a litany of issues continue to spur us toward civil rights and social justice activism. Throughout the United States, activism has reflected public policy issues being debated both in government and in academia. These issues include: systemic voter suppression of minorities through tactics such as gerrymandering; digitally fueled hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans, and transgender people; racial discrimination in both public and private settings; police violence captured on viral videos; and economic injustice experienced by both racial minorities and a non-urban “white working class” in similar yet far from identical ways. The Trotter Collaborative aims to combat these systemic issues through applied research and policy recommendations designed to support the efforts of social justice organizations in the United States.    

Long jail cell hallway.

Mass Incarceration

Today, the United States makes up about 5% of the world’s population and has 21% of the world’s incarcerated population

Between 1980 and 2015, the number of people incarcerated in America increased from roughly 500,000 to over 2.2 million.

Black people accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims in 2012, despite being 13 percent of the US population.

Police Brutality

Black people accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims in 2012, despite being 13 percent of the US population.

Racial minorities made up about 37.4 percent of the general population in the US and 46.6 percent of armed and unarmed victims, but they made up 62.7 percent of unarmed people killed by police. 

On average, in the United States, a police officer takes the life of a citizen every 7 hours

Police officer turning his head toward a scene of two other police officers arresting a seemingly young person.
sign for polling station posted on a glass door

Between 2016 and 2018, the Brennan Center found Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida removed an unusually high number of names from their voter rolls. Both Georgia and North Carolina removed over 10 percent of registrations from their voter lists, and Florida removed more than 7 percent. Since 2015, Alabama election officials purged 658,000 voters, according to the state’s chief election official. This number is dramatic given that the state had only 3.3 million registered voters in 2016.

Photos: Tom Fitzsimmons, Rosemary Ketchum, Martha Stewart

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