The Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) at Northeastern University School of Law conducts research and supports policy initiatives on anti-civil rights violence in the United States and other miscarriages of justice during the period 1930-1970. CRRJ serves as a resource for scholars, policymakers, and organizers involved in various initiatives seeking justice for these crimes.
In Honor of Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison’s fictive work, sitting at the intersection of history, memory, and trauma, speaks so powerfully to the questions that drive our work at CRRJ. The great writer’s unique gift that set her apart from every other American writer, and that makes the work revolutionary, is that she identified the questions our country must be asking but seemingly cannot confront. She found the language, the narrative, the characters, the time and space to render these questions both essential and tolerable. She made it possible to search for answers to the central human rights question: how could, nay, how can people do this to one another. Nor did she shy away from what actually was done, who did it, and who got away with it. Her work opens up the master narrative, displays its conceits, its fault-lines, its greed, its destruction, and reveals how people lived within it, pushed back against it, overcame it, often succumbed to it and often survived it. She shifted our eye from the elites to the survivors, situating their experiences at the core of her work. She democratized history and removed it from the hands of experts, placing center stage its victims, not as morally superior persons, but as human beings, at once ordinary and pathetic, extraordinary and sublime, in the way we all are. Ms. Morrison oscillated deftly between the weight of memory and the freedom of oblivion. Neither disinfecting nor depoliticizing the past, her work teaches that memory, contested and contentious always, is ever present. The breath of the past never quite expires: that’s what the work captured.
Her visit to Northeastern in 2013, at the invitation of CRRJ, was truly memorable.
Margaret Burnham, Founder of CRRJ, and Toni Morrison in 2013.
The Reading Room is a space to explore documents in the CRRJ Burnham-Nobles Archive, and learn about the incredible stories of family members whose cases CRRJ has taken on. There are over 500 cases in the Archive, with the Reading Room being a small sample. The files contain government documents, photographs, interviews and interpretive essays about legal developments.
The Headlight is the online blog of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice (CRRJ) law clinic at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts, featuring the most current work of the CRRJ Clinic.
The CRRJ Annual Reports page features annually authored year-end reports for the CRRJ law clinic as well as other publications from CRRJ.
There is broad consensus in American political culture that the law enforcement system, particularly in the Deep South, failed to protect African American citizens from anti-civil rights violence during the period 1930-1970–
Communities across the country are grappling with how to make amends decades after these events. Some have turned to the criminal justice system. State and local prosecutors have brought fresh cases against the perpetrators of old hate crimes. Federal legislation has been proposed to enhance state investigations. A sense of urgency hangs over these efforts, for those most affected by the events are aging.
CRRJ focuses on these public policy and criminal justice initiatives.
It conducts research into the nature and extent of anti-civil rights violence. CRRJ works with members of a diverse community – prosecutors, lawmakers, victims – that is seeking genuine reconciliation through legal proceedings, law reform, and private investigations. CRRJ assists these groups to assess and develop a range of policy approaches, including criminal prosecutions, truth and reconciliation proceedings, and legislative remedies. On the research front, CRRJ’s work aims to develop reliable data with which to analyze occurrences of anti-civil rights violence and to support research into the history and current significance of these events.
The two components of CRRJ’s program are research and remediation.
Scholars from a range of disciplines – including law, criminal justice, history, sociology, and political science – are engaged in CRRJ’s empirical research, the main program of which is compiling and analyzing information about anti-civil rights violence. The CRRJ Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive is a repository of an extraordinary collection of primary source documents as well as still images and interviews on cases of racially motivated homicides between 1930 and 1970 in twelve southern states. The Archive, not yet complete, contains over 500 cases of lynching, police killings, and other racially motivated homicides during the years in question. CRRJ researches examine the legal sequela and the political context of these events, including community resistance to the violence. The remediation program assesses and supports policy measures to redress the harms, including prosecution, truth and reconciliation proceedings, state pardons, and apologies by state and private entities who bear responsibility for the harms.