Bryan Stevenson

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Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson at TED 2012.jpg
Born Bryan Stevenson
(1959-11-14) November 14, 1959 (age 56)
Milton, Delaware
Residence Montgomery, Alabama
Nationality American
Education Eastern University (B.A.)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)
Harvard Kennedy School (M.P.P.)
Occupation Director of Equal Justice Initiative
Professor at New York University School of Law
Known for Founding Equal Justice Initiative
Notable work Just Mercy
Parent(s) Howard & Alice Stevenson

Bryan A. Stevenson (born November 14, 1959) is an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law. Stevenson has gained national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system. Stevenson has assisted in securing relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, advocated for poor people and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice.

Early life[edit]

Born in 1959, Stevenson grew up in Milton, Delaware, located in Southern Delaware.[1] Stevenson is the son of Howard Carlton Stevenson, Sr. and Alice Gertrude Golden Stevenson.[1] Stevenson has two siblings: an older brother, Howard, Jr. and a sister, Christy.[2] Stevenson's father, Howard Stevenson, Sr., worked at the General Foods processing plant as a laboratory technician.[1] His mother, Alice, was a bookkeeper at Dover Air Force Base.[1]

Stevenson's family attended the Prospect African Methodist Episcopal Church where Stevenson played piano and sang in the choir.[1] His later views were influenced by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where churchgoers were celebrated for standing up after having fallen down.[1] These experiences informed his belief that "each person in our society is more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.”[1]

When Stevenson was sixteen, his maternal grandfather, Clarence L. Golden, was stabbed to death in his Philadelphia home during a burglary. The killers received life sentences, an outcome Stevenson thought fair. Stevenson said of the murders: "Because my grandfather was older, his murder seemed particularly cruel. But I came from a world where we valued redemption over revenge."[2]

Stevenson experienced segregation and its legacy as a child. He spent his first classroom days at a "colored" elementary school.[1] By the time he entered the second grade, his school was formally desegregated but the old rules from segregation still applied, where black kids played separately from white kids and blacks were forced to used the back door.[1] Stevenson's father, having grown up in the area, took the ingrained racism in stride.[1]


Stevenson attended Cape Henlopen High School and graduated in 1977. He played on the soccer and baseball teams.[1] He also served as president of the student body and won American Legion public-speaking contests.[1] His brother, Howard, takes some credit for helping hone Stevenson's rhetorical skills: “We argued the way brothers argue, but these were serious arguments, inspired I guess by our mother and the circumstances of our family growing up.”[1] Stevenson earned straight A's and won a scholarship to Eastern College in St. David's, Pennsylvania.[2] After high school, Stevenson followed his brother to Eastern College. On campus, he directed the campus gospel choir.[1] Stevenson graduated in 1981.[2]

After graduating from college, Stevenson received a full scholarship to attend Harvard Law School. During law school, as part of a class on race and poverty litigation with Elizabeth Bartholet, he worked for Stephen Bright's the Southern Center for Human Rights, which represents death-row inmates throughout the South.[2] During this experience, Stevenson found his career calling.[2] He also attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.


Southern Center for Human Rights[edit]

After graduating from Harvard in 1985, Stevenson moved to Atlanta, Georgia and joined the Southern Center for Human Rights full-time.[2]


Mr. Stevenson spoke at TED2012 in Long Beach, California.[3] Following his presentation, over $1 million was raised by attendees to fund a campaign run by Stevenson to end the practice of putting children in adult jails and prisons.[4]


Stevenson is the author of the critically acclaimed Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. It was named by Time magazine as one of the "10 Best Books of Nonfiction" for 2014. It won the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.[5]



  • "Confronting Mass Imprisonment and Restoring Fairness to Collateral Review of Criminal Cases," 41 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 339 (2006)[6]
  • "The Ultimate Authority on the Ultimate Punishment: The Requisite Role of the Jury in Capital Sentencing," 54 Ala. L. Rev. 1091 (2003)[7]
  • "The Politics of Fear and Death: Successive Problems in Capital Federal Habeas Corpus Cases," 77 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 699 (2002)[8]
  • "Cruel and Unusual: Sentencing 13-and 14-Year Old Children to Die in Prison" (2007)[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Barrett, Paul. "Bryan Stevenson’s Death-Defying Acts". NYU Law Magazine. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Grant, Meg. "A Stubborn Alabama Lawyer Stands Alone Between Death and His Clients". People. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "All of our survival is tied to the survival of everyone: Bryan Stevenson at TED2012". TED. 2012-03-01. Retrieved 2012-03-06. 
  4. ^ "TED’s first response to Bryan Stevenson’s talk on injustice". TED. 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2012-03-06. 
  5. ^ "Anthony Doerr wins Carnegie Medal for fiction". Midcontinent Communications. Associated Press. June 28, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2015. 
  6. ^ Stevenson, Bryan. "Confronting Mass Imprisonment and Restoring Fairness to Collateral Review of Criminal Cases" (PDF). Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Stevenson, Bryan. "The Ultimate Authority on the Ultimate Punishment: The Requisite Role of the Jury in Capital Sentencing" (PDF). Alabama Law Review. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  8. ^ Stevenson, Bryan. "The Politics of Fear and Death: Successive Problems in Capital Federal Habeas Corpus Cases" (PDF). NYU Law Review. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  9. ^ "Cruel and Unusual: Sentencing 13-and 14-Year Old Children to Die in Prison" (PDF). Equal Justice Initiative. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 

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