“Lift Every Voice”: A Tribute to Lani Guinier

“As a country, we are in a state of denial about issues of race and racism. And too many of our leaders have concluded that the way to remedy racism is to simply stop talking about race.” ~Lani Guinier

Lani Guinier, 1993 (flickr)

On January 7, 2022, attorney, law professor, and author Lani Guinier passed away at the age of 71 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She focused on issues of voting rights, race and the law, civil rights and civil liberties, and access to higher education. Guinier was the first woman of color to receive tenure at Harvard Law School and was the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law, Emerita. She received the Champion of Democracy Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Rosa Parks Award from the American Association of Affirmative Action, and the 1994 Harvey Levin Teaching Award at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Guinier also published several works, including The Tyranny of the Majority: Fundamental Fairness in Representative Democracy (1994) and The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy (2002).

Carol Lani Guinier was born on April 19, 1950, in New York, New York. She earned her undergraduate degree from Radcliffe College in 1971, and her Juris Doctor Degree from Yale Law School in 1974. Guinier taught law courses at Fordham Law School, Columbia Law School, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She also served as Assistant Counsel on the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Special Assistant in the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice, and as a Juvenile Court Referee for the Wayne County Juvenile Count. In 1993, Guinier was nominated by President Bill Clinton for Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Her nomination caused grave concern among conservative Congressmen and journalists who believed that her views on voting rights and affirmative action were too divisive. Amidst this controversy, her nomination was soon pulled.

The National Archives and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum hold several documents, photographs, and sound recordings on Lani Guinier. Most of these file units and items relate to the nomination process for Assistant Attorney General. Below are a few selections:

  • Announcement of Nominees of Assistant Attorneys General, Janet Reno and President Bill Clinton, Department of Justice, Washington DC, April 29, 1993 (NAID 179031488)
  • Audio Recording of President Clinton’s Remarks on the Withdrawal of the Nomination of Lani Guinier to be an Assistant Attorney General and an Exchange with Reporters (NAID 192121679)
  • [Heymann, Philip B.] Guinier, Lani (NAID 4754017)
  • Lani Guinier (NAID 77176251)
  • Other records at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library

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