John A. Powell

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john a. powell leads the UC Berkeley Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society[1] and holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion, Professor of Law and Professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.[2][3] powell spells his name in lowercase based on the idea that we should be "part of the universe, not over it, as capitals signify." [4]


powell was born on May 27, 1947[5] in Detroit, Michigan. He was raised by his mother and father, both sharecroppers from the South. His father is a Christian minister.[6]

Previously, powell was the Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University.[7] He also taught civil rights law, property law and jurisprudence and held the Earl R. Larson Chair of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law at the University of Minnesota Law School.

He is founder and former Executive Director of the Institute on Race & Poverty (IRP), which is located at the University of Minnesota Law School.[8] He has taught at Columbia University School of Law, Harvard Law School, University of Miami School of Law, American University and the University of San Francisco School of Law.


Professor powell earned a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and a B.A. from Stanford University. He then became an attorney with the Seattle Public Defender's Office. In 1977, powell received an International Human Rights Fellowship from the University of Minnesota to work in Africa, where he served as a consultant to the government of Mozambique. Between 1987 and 1993, he worked as a national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

He is a co-founder of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) and serves on the boards of several national organizations including Tides.


  • Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society. Indiana University Press. 2012. ISBN 0-253-00629-5.
  • In Pursuit of a Dream Deferred: Linking Housing and Education Policies (with Gavin Kearney and Vina Kay). New York:Peter Lang Publishing, 2001. ISBN 9780820439433
  • The Rights of Racial Minorities: The Basic ACLU Guide to Racial Minority Rights-Young People’s Version (With L.McDonald). American Civil Liberties Union, 1998. ISBN 9780606137416
  • The Rights of Racial Minorities: The Basic ACLU Guide to Racial Minority Rights, 2nded. (with L. McDonald). The American Civil Liberties Union, 1993.


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