William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice

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. This virtual convening, to be held on May 20th and May 21st, will focus on three critical concerns: democracy, criminal legal system transformation, and COVID 19 pandemic resilience. Participants will hear inspiring keynote addresses, dynamic panel discussions, and experience an engaging teaching experience on advocacy. 

trotter announcements

William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice Statement on the Guilty Verdicts in the Trial of Derek Chauvin for the Murder of George Floyd

George Floyd mural in Berlin. "I Can't Breathe" is painted in bold yellow letters.

Trotter Collaborative / April 20, 2021

The verdicts in the historic trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd – guilty of second- and third-degree murder as well as second-degree manslaughter – ushers in palpable relief for the Floyd family, in particular, and millions of protestors who crowded streets and parks from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, in general. The verdicts brought collective relief to millions of Black people who have been plagued by the pandemic of predatory policing dating back to the Fugitive Slave Act. Furthermore, these verdicts represent the beginning of the integration of Black people into a justice system that has refused to hold police accountable for breaking Black necks, tightly cuffing Black hands, and plundering Black bodies. These verdicts held a magnifying glass over the possibilities of a racially traumatized nation to reckon with its tradition of public lynching and anti-Black violence. These verdicts are moral decisions to do justice.

The guilty verdicts, and the protests that preceded them, illustrate how hard we must fight to hold police officers accountable for the extrajudicial murder of Black people. It took eight lawyers on Attorney General Keith Ellison’s prosecutorial team. It took the testimony of 45 witnesses over the course of 13 days of court proceedings. It took 26 million US citizens protesting in at least 550 jurisdictions in all 50 states. It took over 10 thousand arrests of nonviolent protestors. It took the moral witness of 17-year-old Darnella Frazier – her steady hand and cell phone camera that broadcasted George Floyd’s death to the world. It took all these things to prove empirically what we know instinctively – Derek Chauvin’s abuse of power and the extrajudicial murder of a Black man in broad daylight.

Contrary to what many have thought, justice is possible. Scripture tells us to “do justice.” Justice is something that we must do. Justice is not delivered on the wheels of inevitability. Protestors are no longer stymied by a belief in the nation’s capacity to self-correct and “age out” of its original sin of white supremacy. Justice is something that we must do. The lesson we draw from this moment is that if we do justice, accountability is possible. To be sure, this is not the end. This is the beginning of the end of a practice of predatory policing that devastates Black human flourishing and depends on Black poverty.

This moment deepens our resolve to transform the entire system of policing as we know it. Peace and justice require more than convictions of individual officers. The path forward necessitates a commitment to restructure the practice of policing, defunding programs that do not work, and investing in communities historically vulnerable to predatory policing. As a matter of near consensus among many policy analysts and protestors to end the hashtagging of human beings and prevent further police violence, at least the following should be done:

  • The US Senate must pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, as the US House of Representatives passed its version (HR 1280 – 117th Congress) on March 3, 2021. This legislation would empower citizens to sue abusive police officers and cut police departments off from the supply of military-grade equipment they use to police Black and other marginalized communities.
  • Congress, with the leadership of the President, Vice President, Attorney General and the Justice Department, must reign in and curtail qualitied immunity, which creates a legal shield – a blue wall – for abusive police officers.
  • Congress, state legislatures, and police departments must abolish the practice of predatory policing so that Black and other marginalized people are not treated as objects of suspicion instead of subjects of protection.
  • Congress must pursue reparatory justice and pass HR 40 to redress the transgenerational impacts and trauma of slavery and white supremacy.

This moment requires deepened resolve to prevent future Black children from being targeted as nameless, feared, politically controlled, and devastatingly preyed-upon threats – hashtags instead of human beings. As Judge Peter Cahill read the verdicts in the Chauvin trial, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was killed by police in Columbus, Ohio after she called them to break up a fight, according to the family. This tragic killing reminds us that the relief of the Chauvin verdicts must be coupled with a resolve to transform a policing system that murders Black children with impunity.

Now we know that justice is possible. We know that we can accomplish that which some people thought was impossible. Justice is on the horizon and we are glad that finally we can start to see a silver lining in these darkest of clouds. May the spark of these verdicts ignite the embers of a new vision for social justice.

In solidarity,

Cornell William Brooks
Faculty Director, The William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice
Hauser Professor of the Practice of Nonprofit Organizations
Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice
Harvard Kennedy School

Devon Jerome Crawford
Staff Director, The William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice
Harvard Kennedy School


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.  

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.
polling station

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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