Kimberlé Crenshaw

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Kimberlé Crenshaw
Kimberlé Crenshaw (40901215153).jpg
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw

(1959-05-05) May 5, 1959 (age 63)
Canton, Ohio, U.S.
EducationCornell University (BA)
Harvard University (JD)
University of Wisconsin, Madison (LLM)

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (born May 5, 1959) is an American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of critical race theory. She is a professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, where she specializes in race and gender issues.[1]

Crenshaw is known for the introduction and development of intersectional theory, the study of how overlapping or intersecting social identities, particularly minority identities, relate to systems and structures of oppression, domination, or discrimination.[2][3] Her work further expands to also include intersectional feminism, which is a sub-category related to intersectional theory. Intersectional feminism examines the overlapping systems of oppression and discrimination that women face due to their ethnicity, sexuality, and economic background.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Crenshaw was born in Canton, Ohio, on May 5, 1959,[5] to parents Marian and Walter Clarence Crenshaw, Jr.[6] She attended Canton McKinley High School. She received a bachelor's degree in government and Africana studies from Cornell University[7] in 1981, where she was a member of the Quill and Dagger senior Honors' Society.[8] She received a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1984.[9] In 1985, she received an LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she was a William H. Hastie Fellow[10] and law clerk to Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Shirley Abrahamson.[11][failed verification]


Following completion of her LL.M, Crenshaw joined the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law in 1986. She is a founder of the field of critical race theory, and a lecturer on civil rights, critical race studies, and constitutional law.[7] At the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law she currently teaches four classes: Advanced Critical Race Theory, Civil Rights, Intersectional Perspectives on Race, Gender and the Criminalization of Women & Girls, and Race, Law and Representation.[12] In both 1991 and 1994, she was elected professor of the year by matriculating students.[13] In 1995, Crenshaw was appointed full professor at Columbia Law School, where she is the founder and director of the Center for Intersectionality & Social Policy Studies, established in 2011.[11][13][14] At Columbia Law School, Kimberlé W. Crenshaw's courses include an Intersectionalities Workshop and an Intersectionalities Workshop centered around Civil Rights.[15]

In 1996, she co-founded and is the executive director of the nonprofit think tank and information clearinghouse, The African American Policy Forum, which focuses on issues of gender and diversity. Its mission is to build bridges between scholarly research and public discourse in addressing inequality and discrimination. Crenshaw has been awarded the Fulbright Chair for Latin America in Brazil, and in 2008, she was awarded an in-residence fellowship at the Center of Advanced Behavioral Studies at Stanford.

In 1991, Crenshaw assisted the legal team representing Anita Hill at the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.[16]

Crenshaw is the co-founder and executive director of the African American Policy Forum (AAPF), a think tank focused on "dismantling structural inequality" and "advancing and expanding racial justice, gender equality, and the indivisibility of all human rights, both in the U.S. and internationally."[17][18]

In 2001, she wrote the background paper on Race and Gender Discrimination for the United Nations World Conference on Racism, helped to facilitate the addition of gender in the WCAR Conference Declaration, served as a member of the National Science Foundation's Committee to Research Violence Against Women and the National Research Council panel on Research on Violence Against Women. Crenshaw was a member of the Domestic Strategy Group at the Aspen Institute from 1992 to 1995,[19] the Women's Media Initiative,[20] and is a regular commentator on NPR's The Tavis Smiley Show.[21]


External video
video icon Kimberlé Crenshaw - On Intersectionality - keynote - WOW 2016: Southbank Centre[22]

Crenshaw introduced the theory of intersectionality to feminist theory in the 1980s.[2] It is speculated[23] the official date of introduction of intersectionality was likely 1987 in a seminal paper written by Crenshaw for the University of Chicago Legal Forum. The paper attempted to mitigate the widespread misconception that the intersectional experience is solely due to the sum of racism and sexism.[4] Although the concept of intersectionality was not new it was not formally recognized until Crenshaw's theory. Her inspiration for the theory started while she was still in college and she realized that the gender aspect of race was extremely underdeveloped. The realization came after she noticed at the school she was attending that there were classes offered that addressed both race and gender issues. The courses available discussed women in only literature and poetry classes while men were discussed in serious politics and economics.[2]

Crenshaw's focus on intersectionality is on how the law responds to issues that include gender and race discrimination. The particular challenge in law is that antidiscrimination laws look at gender and race separately and consequently African-American women and other women of color experience overlapping forms of discrimination and the law, unaware of how to combine the two, leaves these women with no justice.[2] Antidiscrimination laws and the justice system's attempt for a remedy to discrimination is limited and operates on a singular axis; when one flows into another a complete and understandable definition has not been written in law therefore when the issue of intersectionality is presented in the court of law if one form of discrimination cannot be proved without the other than there is no law broken. The law defines discrimination of singular cases where you can only be discriminated based one thing or the other so when enforcing the law they go solely by the definition and if discrimination cannot be proved based on the single definition of one discrimination or the other then there is no crime committed.

Crenshaw often refers to the case DeGraffenreid v. General Motors in writing, interviews, and lectures. In DeGraffenreid v. General Motors,[24] a group of African-American women argued they were receiving compound discrimination excluding them from employment opportunities. They contended that although women were eligible for office and secretarial jobs, in practice such positions only were offered to white women, barring African-American women from seeking employment in the company. The courts weighed the allegations of race and gender discrimination separately, finding that the employment of African-American male factory workers disproved racial discrimination, and the employment of white female office workers disproved gender discrimination. The court declined to consider compound discrimination, and dismissed the case.[2]

Crenshaw also discusses intersectionality in connection to her experience as part of the 1991 legal team for Anita Hill, the woman who accused then- Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.[25] The case drew two crowds expressing contrasting views: white feminists in support of Hill and the opposing members of the African-American community that supported Clarence Thomas. The two lines of argument focused on the rights of women and Hill's experience of being violated as a woman, on the one hand, and on the other the appeal to forgive Thomas or turn a blind eye to his conduct due to his opportunity to become only the second African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

Crenshaw argued that with these two groups rising up against one another during this case, Anita Hill lost her voice as a black woman. She had been unintentionally chosen to support the women's side of things, silencing her racial contribution to the issue. "It was like one of these moments where you literally feel that you have been kicked out of your community, all because you are trying to introduce and talk about the way that African American women have experienced sexual harassment and violence. It was a defining moment." "Many women who talk about the Anita Hill thing," Crenshaw adds, "they celebrate what's happened with women in general…. So sexual harassment is now recognized; what's not doing as well is the recognition of black women's unique experiences with discrimination."[2]

Crenshaw also discussed the theory of intersectionality in a TED Talk in October 2016.[26]

In recent years, Crenshaw has spoken out against misinterpretations of intersectionality, saying that some have wrongfully characterized it as a blanket term for "complicated" problems or as "identity politics on steroids."[27][28]

My Brother's Keeper[edit]

A nationwide initiative to open up a ladder of opportunities to youth males and males of color.[29] Crenshaw and the other participants of the African American Forum have demonstrated through multiple means of the media to express that the initiative has good intentions but perpetrates for the uplifting of youth but excludes girls and youth girls of color. The AAPF have started a campaign #WHYWECANTWAIT to address the realignment of the "My Brothers Keeper" initiative to include all youth boys, girls, and those girls and boys of color. The movement has received a lot of support from all over letters signed by men of color, letters signed by women of color and letters signed by allies that believe in the cause.

In an interview on the Laura Flanders Show, Crenshaw expressed that the program was introduced as response to the widespread grief from the African-American community after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the case of his shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teenage boy. She describes the program as "feel-good", and fatherly initiative but does not believe that it is a significant or structural program that will help fight the rollback of civil rights; the initiative will not provide the kinds of things that will really make a difference. She believes that because women and girls of color are a part of the same communities and disadvantages as the under-privileged males that are focused in the initiative, that in order to make it an effective program for the communities it needs to include all members of the community girls and boys alike.[30]

  • #Why we can't wait: Women of Color Urging Inclusion in "My Brother's Keeper"
  • June 17, 2014 – a letter from more than 1000 girls and women of color

The letter is signed by women of all ages and a variety of backgrounds including high-school teens, professional actors, civil rights activists, and university professors commending President Obama on the efforts of the White House, private philanthropy, and social justice organizations to urge the inclusion of young women and girls. The realignment would be important to reflect the values of inclusion, equal opportunity and shared fate that have propelled our historic struggle for racial justice moving forward.

  • May 30, 2014 – a letter of 200 Concerned Black Men and Other Men of Color calling for the Inclusion of Women and Girls in "My Brothers Keeper"[31]

The letter is signed by a multitude of diverse men with different lifestyles to include scholars, recently incarcerated, taxi drivers, pastors, college students, fathers of sons, fathers of daughters and more. All the men believing that the girls within the communities that these men share homes, schools, recreational areas share a fate with one another and believe that the initiative is lacking in focus if that focus does not include both genders.


Crenshaw's work has been cited as influential in the drafting of the equality clause in the Constitution of South Africa.[18]

Crenshaw attended the Women of the World festival which took place from 8–13 March 2016 at the Southbank Centre in London, England.[32] She delivered a keynote speech on the unique challenges facing women of colour when it comes to the struggle for gender equality, racial justice and well-being. A key challenge is police brutality against black women, she highlighted the #SayHerName campaign which is aimed at uplifting the stories of black women killed by the police.[33]

In 2017, Crenshaw gave an hour-long lecture to a maximum-capacity crowd of attendees at Rapaporte Treasure Hall at Brandeis University.[34] She explained the role intersectionality plays in modern-day society. [35] After a three-day celebration of her work, University President Ron Liebowitz presented Crenshaw with the Toby Gittler award at a ceremony following the lecture.[36]

That same year, Crenshaw was invited to moderate a Sexual Harassment Panel hosted by Women in Animation and The Animation Guild, Local 839. Crenshaw discussed the history of harassment in the workplace and transitioned the discussion to how it plays a role in today's work environments. The other panelists with Crenshaw agreed there have been many protective measures placed to combat sexual harassment in the workplace but many issues remain to be resolved for a complete settlement of the problem at hand.[37]


She has published works on civil rights, black feminist legal theory, and race, racism, and the law.


  • Critical Race theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement, May 1, 1996. A compilation of some of the most important writings that formed and sustained the critical race theory (CRT) movement. The book includes articles from Derrick Bell, Richard Delgado, Mari Matsuda, Anthony Cook, Duncan Kennedy, Gary Peller, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and others. All of the articles add something to CRT, and read independently, add significant portions to the CRT movement.[38]
  • Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech and the First Amendment
  • The Race Track: Understanding and Challenging Structural Racism, July 30, 2013
  • Reaffirming Racism: The faulty logic of Colorblindness, Remedy and Diversity, 2013
  • Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Over Policed and Under Protected. 2016. A report based on new reviews of national data and personal interviews with young women in Boston and New York. What started out as just a report we anticipate the book and how it will perform the same task to readers expressing why black girls cannot be abandoned at the margins.[39]
  • Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence against Women of Color. Crenshaw is responding to the tendency within identity politics to overlook or silence intra-group differences, a dynamic repeated throughout anti-racist and feminist movements to the detriment of black women. She explores the simultaneously raced and gendered dimensions of violence against women of color (looking specifically at responses to domestic violence and rape) to draw attention to the way the specificity of black women's experiences of violence is ignored, overlooked, misrepresented, and/or silenced. Crenshaw focuses on both the structural and political aspects of intersectionality with regards to rape and domestic abuse and uses this analysis of violence against women of color to highlight the importance of intersectionality and of engaging with issues like violence against women through an intersectional lens.[40]
  • On Intersectionality: Essential Writings of Kimberlé Crenshaw. Forthcoming. Essays and articles that help define the concept of intersectionality. Crenshaw provides insight from the Central Park jogger, Anita Hill's testimony against now Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and other significant matters of public interest.[41]


Critical reception[edit]

Upon appointing Crenshaw to Columbia Law School, law school dean Lance Liebman described Crenshaw as a "leading law scholar" who "has shed important light on central issues of civil rights law."[13]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ "Reunion Renews Commitment to William H. Hastie Fellowship Legacy | University of Wisconsin Law School". Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Adewunmi, Bim (April 2, 2014). "Kimberlé Crenshaw on intersectionality: 'I wanted to come up with an everyday metaphor that anyone could use'". New Statesman. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  3. ^ Ruparelia, Rakhi (2019) [2016]. "The Invisibility of Whiteness in the White Feminist Imagination". In Kirkland, Ewan (ed.). Shades of Whiteness. Leiden and Boston: Brill Publishers. pp. 77–89. doi:10.1163/9781848883833_008. ISBN 978-1-84888-383-3. S2CID 201575540.
  4. ^ a b Miller, Hayley (August 11, 2017). "Kimberlé Crenshaw Explains The Power Of Intersectional Feminism In 1 Minute". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  5. ^ Mohdin, Aamna (November 12, 2020). "Kimberlé Crenshaw: the woman who revolutionised feminism – and landed at the heart of the culture wars". Black lives. The Guardian. Archived from the original on October 28, 2021.
  6. ^ "Marian Williams Crenshaw". The Repository/The Independent. November 22, 2008. Retrieved February 10, 2022 – via
  7. ^ a b Lang, Susan S. (October 7, 2013). "Race, gender scholar Crenshaw on campus Oct. 16-21". Cornell Chronicle. Ithaca, N.Y. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  8. ^ "Congratulations!". The Cornell Daily Sun. Vol. XCVII, no. 45. Ithaca, N.Y. October 31, 1980. p. 8 – via Cornell University Library.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ "Kimberle W. Crenshaw". Columbia Law School. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  10. ^ "William H. Hastie Fellowship Program". University of Wisconsin Law School. Archived from the original on August 10, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  11. ^ a b c d "Canton native Kimberlé Crenshaw receives legal scholar award". The Repository. Canton, Ohio. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  12. ^ "Courses Page". Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  13. ^ a b c "Columbia University Record" (2 ed.). September 15, 1995. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Foundation, American Bar. "UCLA and Columbia Law Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to Receive 2016 Fellows Outstanding Scholar Award - American Bar Foundation". Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  15. ^ "Kimberle W. Crenshaw". Columbia Law School. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  16. ^ "Where Are All the Black Feminists in Confirmation?". ELLE. April 18, 2016. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  17. ^ "Our mission". African American Policy Forum. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  18. ^ a b Poole, Shirley L. (2000). "Preface to "The Damnation of Women"". The Crisis. 107 (6): 2 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ Knubel, Fred (September 16, 1995). "Kimberle Crenshaw Named Professor at Columbia Law". New York, NY: Columbia University, Office of Public Information. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  20. ^ "Kimberle Crenshaw biography". The African American Policy Forum. Archived from the original on July 28, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  21. ^ "About the Tavis Smiley Show". The Tavis Smiley Show. Archived from the original on January 26, 2018. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  22. ^ "Kimberlé Crenshaw - On Intersectionality - keynote - WOW 2016: Southbank Centre". Southbank Centre at YouTube. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  23. ^ Harnois, Catherine E. (2015). "Jeopardy, Consciousness, and Multiple Discrimination: Intersecting Inequalities in Contemporary Western Europe". Sociological Forum. 30 (4): 971–994. doi:10.1111/socf.12204. ISSN 0884-8971. JSTOR 24878709.
  24. ^ "DeGraffenreid v. GENERAL MOTORS ASSEMBLY DIV., ETC., 413 F. Supp. 142 (E.D. Mo. 1976)". Justia Law. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  25. ^ "Black Women Still in Defense of Ourselves". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  26. ^ "The urgency of intersectionality". November 14, 2016.
  27. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (February 20, 2020). "She Coined the Term 'Intersectionality' Over 30 Years Ago. Here's What It Means to Her Today". Retrieved October 19, 2022.
  28. ^ "Kimberlé Crenshaw on Intersectionality, More than Two Decades Later". Retrieved October 19, 2022.
  29. ^ "My Brother's Keeper". The White House. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  30. ^ Flanders, Laura (July 14, 2014). "My Brother's Keeper: We Can't Wait". The Laura Flanders Show. Retrieved December 10, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. ^ "Why We Can't Wait: Women of Color Urge Inclusion in "My Brother's Keeper"". AAPF. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  32. ^ "WOW – Women of the World | Southbank Centre". Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  33. ^ "#SayHerName". AAPF. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  34. ^ "Kimberlé Crenshaw honored with Gittler Prize". BrandeisNOW. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  35. ^ "2017.10.25.The Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize.Lecture". October 25, 2017. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  36. ^ "Kimberlé Crenshaw accepts Gittler Prize for career works". The Justice. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  37. ^ "Sexual Harassment Panel Offers Definitions, Strategies". Animation World Network. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  38. ^ "Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the …".
  39. ^ "COMING SOON: #BlackGirlsMatter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected — AAPF". Archived from the original on January 8, 2015.
  40. ^ ""Mapping the Margins:Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color"". January 25, 2010.
  41. ^ Kimberlé Crenshaw. "On Intersectionality: The Essential Writings of Kimberlé Crenshaw by Kimberlé Crenshaw". Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  42. ^ "Library Resource Finder: Table of Contents for: Sisterhood is forever : the women's anth". Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  43. ^ a b "Canton native wins fellowships to study race". The Repository. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  44. ^ report, staff. "Kimberlé Crenshaw named to Ebony Magazine's 'Power 100'". The Repository. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  45. ^ "Kimberlé Crenshaw honored with Gittler Prize | BrandeisNOW". BrandeisNOW. Retrieved December 16, 2017.


External links[edit]