Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (born 1959) is an American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of critical race theory. She is a full professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, where she specializes in race and gender issues.[1]

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw
Kimberlé Crenshaw Laura Flanders 2017.png
Crenshaw in 2017
Born 1959 (age 57–58)
Nationality American
Alma mater Cornell University
Occupation Academic, lawyer

Crenshaw is known for the introduction and development of intersectional theory, the study of how overlapping or intersecting social identities, particularly minority identities, relate to systems and structures of oppression, domination, or discrimination.[2]


Early life and educationEdit

Crenshaw was born in Canton, Ohio in 1959, to parents Marian and Walter Clarence Crenshaw, Jr.[3] She attended Canton McKinley High School. She received a bachelor's degree in government and Africana studies from Cornell University[4] in 1981, where she was a member of the Quill and Dagger senior honors society.[citation needed] She received a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1984.[5] In 1985, she received an LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she was a William H. Hastie Fellow, and law clerk to Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Shirley Abrahamson.[6][7]


Following completion of her LL.M, Crenshaw joined the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law in 1986. She is a founder of the field of critical race theory, and a lecturer on civil rights, critical race studies, and constitutional law.[4] In 1991 and 1994, she was elected professor of the year by matriculating students.[8] In 1995, Crenshaw was appointed as full professor at Columbia Law School, where she is the founder and director of the Center for Intersectionality & Social Policy Studies, established in 2011.[6][8][9]

In 1996, she co-founded and is the executive director of the nonprofit think tank and information clearinghouse, The African American Policy Forum, which focuses on issues of gender and diversity. Its mission is to build bridges between scholarly research and public discourse in addressing inequality and discrimination. Crenshaw has been awarded the Fulbright Chair for Latin America in Brazil, and in 2008, she was awarded an in-residence fellowship at the Center of Advanced Behavioral Studies at Stanford.

In 1991, Crenshaw assisted the legal team representing Anita Hill at the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.[10]

Crenshaw is the co-founder and executive director of the African American Policy Forum (AAPF), a think tank focused on "dismantling structural inequality" and "advancing and expanding racial justice, gender equality, and the indivisibility of all human rights, both in the U.S. and internationally."[11][12]

In 2001, she wrote the background paper on Race and Gender Discrimination for the United Nations World Conference on Racism, helped to facilitate the addition of gender in the WCAR Conference Declaration, served as a member of the National Science Foundation's Committee to Research Violence Against Women and the National Research Council panel on Research on Violence Against Women. Crenshaw is a member of the Domestic Strategy Group at the Aspen Institute, the Women's Media Initiative, and is a regular commentator on NPR's The Tavis Smiley Show.[citation needed]


Crenshaw's work has been cited as influential in the drafting of the equality clause in the Constitution of South Africa.[12]

She contributed the piece "Traffic at the Crossroads: Multiple Oppressions" to the 2003 anthology Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium, edited by Robin Morgan.[13]

Crenshaw attended the Women of the World festival which took place from 8–13 March 2016 at the Southbank Centre in London, England.[14] She delivered a keynote speech on the unique challenges facing women of colour when it comes to the struggle for gender equality, racial justice and well-being. A key challenge is police brutality against black women, she highlighted the #SayHerName campaign which is aimed at uplifting the stories of black women killed by the police.[15]


External video
  Kimberlé Crenshaw - On Intersectionality - keynote - WOW 2016: Southbank Centre[16]

Kimberlé Crenshaw introduced the theory of intersectionality to feminist theory in the 1980s.[2] Although the concept of intersectionality was not new it was not formally recognized until Crenshaw's theory. Her inspiration for the theory started while she was still in college and she realized that the gender aspect of race was extremely underdeveloped. The realization came after she noticed at the school she was attending that there were classes offered that addressed both race and gender issues. The courses available discussed women in only literature and poetry classes while men were discussed in serious politics and economics.[2]

Crenshaw's focus on intersectionality is on how the law responds to issues that include gender and race discrimination. The particular challenge in law is that antidiscrimination laws look at gender and race separately and consequently African American women and other women of color experience overlapping forms of discrimination and the law, unaware of how to combine the two, leaves these women with no justice.[2] Antidiscrimination laws and the justice system's attempt for a remedy to discrimination is limited and operates on a singular axis; when one flows into another a complete and understandable definition has not been written in law therefore when the issue of intersectionality is presented in the court of law if one form of discrimination cannot be proved without the other than there is no law broken. The law defines discrimination of singular cases where you can only be discriminated based one thing or the other so when enforcing the law they go solely by the definition and if discrimination cannot be proved based on the single definition of one discrimination or the other then there is no crime committed.

Crenshaw often refers to the case DeGraffenreid v. General Motors in writing, interviews, and lectures. In DeGraffenreid v. General Motors, a group of African American women argued they were receiving compound discrimination excluding them from employment opportunity. They contended that although women were eligible for office and secretarial jobs, in practice such positions only were offered to white women, barring African American women from seeking employment in the company. The courts weighed the allegations of race and gender discrimination separately, finding that the employment of African American male factory workers disproved racial discrimination, and the employment of white female office workers disproved gender discrimination. The court declined to consider compound discrimination, and dismissed the case.[2]

Crenshaw also discusses intersectionality in connection to her experience as part of the 1991 legal team for Anita Hill, the woman who accused then- Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.[17] The case drew two crowds expressing contrasting views: white feminists in support of Hill and the opposing members of the African American community that supported Clarence Thomas. The two lines of argument focused on the rights of women and Hill's experience of being violated as a woman, on the one hand, and on the other the appeal to forgive Thomas or turn a blind eye to his conduct due to his opportunity to become only the second African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

Crenshaw argued that with these two groups rising up against one another during this case, Anita Hill lost her voice as a black woman. She had been unintentionally chosen to support the women's side of things, silencing her racial contribution to the issue. “It was like one of these moments where you literally feel that you have been kicked out of your community, all because you are trying to introduce and talk about the way that African American women have experienced sexual harassment and violence. It was a defining moment.” “Many women who talk about the Anita Hill thing,” Crenshaw adds, “they celebrate what's happened with women in general…. So sexual harassment is now recognized; what's not doing as well is the recognition of black women's unique experiences with discrimination.”

My Brother's KeeperEdit

A nationwide initiative to open up a ladder of opportunities to youth males and males of color.[18] Kimberlé Crenshaw and the other participants of the African American Forum have demonstrated through multiple means of the media to express that the initiative has good intentions but perpetrates for the uplifting of youth but excludes girls and youth girls of color. The AAPF have started a campaign #WHYWECANTWAIT to address the realignment of the "My Brothers Keeper" initiative to include all youth boys, girls, and those girls and boys of color. The movement has received a lot of support from all over letters signed by men of color, letters signed by women of color and letters signed by allies that believe in the cause.

In an interview on the Laura Flanders Show Kimberlé Crenshaw expressed that the program was introduced as response to the widespread grief from the African American community after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the case of his shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenage boy. She describes the program as "feel-good", and fatherly initiative but does not believe that it is a significant or structural program that will help fight the rollback of civil rights; the initiative will not provide the kinds of things that will really make a difference. She believes that because women and girls of color are a part of the same communities and disadvantages as the under-privileged males that are focused in the initiative, that in order to make it an effective program for the communities it needs to include all members of the community girls and boys alike.[citation needed]

  • #Why we can't wait: Women of Color Urging Inclusion in "My Brother's Keeper"
  • June 17, 2014 – a letter from over 1000 girls and women of color

The letter is signed by women of all ages and a variety of backgrounds including high school teens, professional actors, civil rights activists, and university professors commending President Obama on the efforts of the White House, private philanthropy, and social justice organizations to urge the inclusion of young women and girls. The realignment would be important to reflect the values of inclusion, equal opportunity and shared fate that have propelled our historic struggle for racial justice moving forward.

  • May 30, 2014 a letter of 200 Concerned Black Men and Other Men of Color calling for the Inclusion of Women and Girls in "My Brothers Keeper"[19]

The letter is signed by a multitude of diverse men with different lifestyles to include scholars, recently incarcerated, taxi drivers, pastors, college students, fathers of sons, fathers of daughters and more. All the men believing that the girls within the communities that these men share homes, schools, recreational areas share a fate with one another and believe that the initiative is lacking in focus if that focus does not include both genders.

Ted TalkEdit

Kimberle Crenshaw had an opportunity to do a Ted talk in different places to elaborate on African American women and gender and the urgency of intersectionality. Crenshaw want to prove a point about African American women of color face intersectionality and does not receive justice for the violence that is put upon them against the violence of police. There are at least two types of violence happening that is police violence against African Americans and police violence against women. To think about who is implicated and victimized by these problems the names that were listed never came up. These individuals slip through a conscious because there are no frames to see, remember, and hold. Reporters don’t lead with them, policy makers don’t think about them, and politicians aren’t demand to encourage to speak with them and the issue is that affects black people and affects women that are black people who are women. Its approach to social justice and times it does not work. Crenshaw mentions without frames to allow people to see social problems that may fall through the cracks of movements to suffer through virtual isolation.

Intersectionality deal with the social justice of racism and sexism often overlapping and creating multiple levels of social justice. Crenshaw use an African American women who is working, a wife and a mother. Emma Degraffenreid story was written by a judge who dismiss Emma claim of race and gender discrimination. She applied for a job that did not want her and she felt it was a racial discrimination and the judge dismiss Emma suit. The judge fail to realize that all men were black working manufacturing and the women were all white working as secretary and office work. It was a double discrimination that Emma was facing.

When there is no name for this problem no one can’t see the problem to solve the problem. Emma was facing a framing problem. The frame the court to see gender or race discrimination is partial and distorting. Crenshaw want to if there was a prism to crack and see Emma story. An intersection of roads would be the way to workforce structured by race and gender. The traffic would be hiring policies and other practices that ran through the roads. Emma were positioned where roads over lapped and experience the impact of the company gender and race traffic.

African American women of color like socially marginalized people all over the world were facing all challenges and dilemmas as a consequence of intersectionality. Within these intersections they have race, gender, heterosexism, transphobia, xenophobia, and ableism. Those social dynamics come together and create challenges. Intersectionality raise awareness to the way black women live their lives and also exposes tragic circumstances under African American who died. Police violence is real and the level of violence black women face is not surprising that some did not survive their encounters with police. From young black girls to grandmothers have been killed by the police. African American women have been killed in living rooms, shot to death, stomped to death, mental disability, and many more.

They don’t generate the same media attention of communal outcry as lost lives of fallen brothers. There is time for change. In 2014 the African American policy reform demand to “say the names” of victims at rally’s, protests, conferences, meetings, many others. The state violence against black bodies being discussed, we have to do more, willing to bear witness of painful realities that we rather confront. The everyday violence humiliation that black women face across color, age, gender expression, sexuality, and ability. Crenshaw mentions “if we can’t see a problem we can’t fix a problem. It’s up to us”.


She has published works on civil rights, black feminist legal theory, and race, racism, and the law.


Critical Race theory: The Key Writings That Formed the MovementEdit

Published: May 1, 1996. It is a compilation of some of the most important writings that formed and sustained the critical race theory ("CRT") movement. The book includes articles from Derrick Bell, Richard Delgado, Mari Matsuda, Anthony Cook, Duncan Kennedy, Gary Peller, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and others. All of the articles add something to CRT, and read independently, add significant portions to the CRT movement.[20]

Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech and the First AmendmentEdit

The Race Track:Understanding and Challenging Structural RacismEdit

Published: July 30, 2013

Reaffirming Racism:The faulty logic of Colorblindness, Remedy and DiversityEdit

Published: June 4, 2013

Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Over Policed and Under ProtectedEdit

Published: Upcoming publication This is a report based on new reviews of national data and personal interviews with young women in Boston and New York. What started out as just a report we anticipate the book and how it will perform the same task to readers expressing why black girls cannot be abandoned at the margins.[21]

Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence against Women of ColorEdit

Crenshaw is responding to the tendency within identity politics to overlook or silence intra-group differences, a dynamic repeated throughout anti-racist and feminist movements to the detriment of black women. Crenshaw explores the simultaneously raced and gendered dimensions of violence against women of color (specifically by looking at responses to domestic violence and rape) to draw attention to the way the specificity of black women's experiences of violence is ignored, overlooked, misrepresented, and/or silenced. Crenshaw focuses on both the structural and political aspects of intersectionality with regards to rape and domestic abuse and uses this analysis of violence against women of color to highlight the importance of intersectionality and of engaging with issues like violence against women through an intersectional lens.[22]

On Intersectionality: Essential Writings of Kimberlé CrenshawEdit

Expected publication: August 2017. This book provides readers with an introduction to Kimberlé Crenshaw's work. She provides essays and articles that help define the concept of intersectionality. She provides insight from the Central Park jogger, Anita Hill's testimony against now Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and other significant matters of public interest.[23]

Critical receptionEdit

Upon appointing Crenshaw to Columbia Law School, law school dean Lance Liebman described Crenshaw as a "leading law scholar" who "has shed important light on central issues of civil rights law."[8]

Awards and honorsEdit


  1. ^ "Reunion Renews Commitment to William H. Hastie Fellowship Legacy | University of Wisconsin Law School". Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Kimberlé Crenshaw on intersectionality: "I wanted to come up with an everyday metaphor that anyone could use"". Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  3. ^ "Marian Williams Crenshaw's Obituary on The Repository". The Repository. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  4. ^ a b "Race, gender scholar Crenshaw on campus Oct. 16-21 | Cornell Chronicle". Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  5. ^ "Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw | Faculty | Columbia Law School". Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Canton native Kimberlé Crenshaw receives legal scholar award". The Repository. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  7. ^ "William H. Hastie Fellowship Program | University of Wisconsin Law School". Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  8. ^ a b c "Columbia University Record" (2 ed.). September 15, 1995. Retrieved March 9, 2016. 
  9. ^ Foundation, American Bar. "UCLA and Columbia Law Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to Receive 2016 Fellows Outstanding Scholar Award - American Bar Foundation". Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  10. ^ "Where Are All the Black Feminists in Confirmation?". ELLE. 2016-04-18. Retrieved 2016-04-22. 
  11. ^ "Our mission". African American Policy Forum. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  12. ^ a b Poole, Shirley L. The Crisis. NAACP/The Crisis Publishing Company, Inc. Retrieved March 9, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Library Resource Finder: Table of Contents for: Sisterhood is forever : the women's anth". Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  14. ^ "WOW – Women of the World | Southbank Centre". Retrieved 2017-03-23. 
  15. ^ "#SayHerName". AAPF. Retrieved 2017-03-23. 
  16. ^ "Kimberlé Crenshaw - On Intersectionality - keynote - WOW 2016: Southbank Centre". Southbank Centre at YouTube. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  17. ^ "Black Women Still in Defense of Ourselves". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  18. ^ "My Brother's Keeper". The White House. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  19. ^ "Why We Can't Wait: Women of Color Urge Inclusion in "My Brother's Keeper"". AAPF. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ [2]
  22. ^ [3]
  23. ^ [4]
  24. ^ a b "Canton native wins fellowships to study race". The Repository. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  25. ^ report, staff. "Kimberlé Crenshaw named to Ebony Magazine's 'Power 100'". The Repository. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  26. ^ Foundation, American Bar. "UCLA and Columbia Law Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to Receive 2016 Fellows Outstanding Scholar Award - American Bar Foundation". Retrieved 2016-03-10. 


External linksEdit