Randall Kennedy

Randall Kennedy has been a contributing editor of the Prospect since 1995. He is the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard University. His several books include The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency.

Recent Articles

The Courage to Defy Brutality

The case of a black Army veteran that spurred a South Carolina federal judge to defy his state's white supremacist power structure

AP Photo/Christina Myers The Blinding of Isaac Woodard historical marker is dedicated in Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina. Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring Richard Gergel Farrar, Straus, and Giroux This article is a preview of the Spring 2019 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here. R acially motivated police brutality daily affronts us in two dimensions. First there are the episodes in which police deploy more force against racial minorities than they would have deployed against similarly situated whites. Second are the episodes in which the legal system wrongly absolves police of criminal culpability for racially discriminatory wrongdoing even in that small fraction of cases in which there is an investigation. Black Lives Matter and related protests have focused much-needed attention on this long-standing scandal. But progress is difficult to attain. Perhaps some...

Martin Luther King Jr.: The Prophet as Healer

Whether by example or by strategy, Dr. King always looked for opportunities to build bridges.

AP Photo/Charles Harrity
AP Photo/Charles Harrity Addressing the press in Chicago, March 24, 1967 This article appears in the Spring 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . I n August 1967, in a sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Martin Luther King Jr. observed that he and the congregation were living in “evil times.” His remark was brutally punctuated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, when King was assassinated. What should we focus upon in marking the 50th anniversary of this somber landmark? I suggest three things: the particulars of King’s achievements as a liberal dissident; the trying circumstances he faced at the end of his life; and the virtues of his principal strategy and aim—coalition politics in the service of a decent, egalitarian, multiracial society. King was a great man—not a pseudo-hero but the genuine article, one of the most remarkable dissidents in American, indeed world, history. He was at the forefront of three campaigns that defined...

Despair Is Not an Option

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert Graduate members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity pray during a social action prayer vigil across the street from the Jefferson Davis monument in New Orleans, prior to its removal. This article is a preview of the Fall 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . D evotees of racial justice continue to be appalled by the Trump administration. Heather Heyer, the anti-racist demonstrator murdered in Charlottesville, was right: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” A great many Americans, especially African Americans, are in a mood of despair upon witnessing a president of the United States winking at neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klansmen, and doing everything in his power to expunge the achievements of his predecessor, a man who came to be known less for his race than for his decency, dignity, and honor. Yet despair is not an option. And in fact, good people of all races are putting their anger to good use through...