Kristen Clarke

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Kristen M. Clarke
2016 DISCUSSION ON VOTING RIGHTS (29543691120).jpg
United States Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division
Assuming office
PresidentJoe Biden
SucceedingEric Dreiband
Personal details
EducationHarvard University (AB)
Columbia University (JD)

Kristen M. Clarke is an American attorney who is the president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. She previously managed the Civil Rights bureau of the New York Department of Law under Eric Schneiderman. In 2019, Clarke successfully represented Taylor Dumpson, the first Jamaican-American woman student body president of American University, in her landmark case against white supremacists.

President-elect Joe Biden in 2021 selected Clarke as his choice to head the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Clarke's parents immigrated to Brooklyn from Jamaica.[2] She has said that she "grew up in a household that was about discipline, working hard in school and about making the most of every opportunity".[2] Clarke was a member of Prep for Prep, a non-profit organization that looks to support students of color in accessing private school education.[3][4]

She attended Choate Rosemary Hall, where she was the only girl to join the boy's wrestling squad.[5] Clarke earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University, where she was involved with initiatives to support and champion African-American students, including being president of the Black Student's Association.[6] While presiding over the BSA in 1994 she invited Tony Martin to speak.[7]

Clarke graduated from Harvard in 1997,[8] then earned a Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School in 2000.[9][10]


After graduating she worked as a trial attorney in the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. In this capacity, she served as a federal prosecutor and worked on voting rights, hate crimes and human trafficking cases.[3][11]

In 2006, Clarke joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where she co-led the political participation group and focused on election law reform.[12] In 2011, Clarke was appointed Director of the Civil Rights bureau of then Attorney General of New York, Eric Schneiderman, where she led initiatives on criminal justice issues and housing discrimination. Under her initiative, the bureau reached agreements with retailers on racial profiling of their customers, police departments on policy reformer and with school districts on the school-to-prison pipeline.[13][14]

In 2015, Clarke was appointed president and Executive Director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.[11][13] One of her first roles was leading Election Protection, a voter protection coalition.[2] She became well known for her work combating the discrimination faced by marginalized communities.[11]

In 2019, Clarke represented Taylor Dumpson, the first African-American woman student body president of American University, in her lawsuit against avowed neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, who initiated a racist "troll storm" against her making her fear for her life and disrupting her ability to pursue her education.[15][16] Clarke successfully fought for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to recognize that hateful online trolling can interfere with access to public accommodation, as well as securing damages and a restraining order.[15]

In early 2020, Clarke became concerned that African American communities would be disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. She believed that the social determinants of health could explain why Black communities were so much more likely to contract severe forms of coronavirus disease, including that individuals in this group were less likely to be able to work from home, more vulnerable to losing their health insurance if they didn't go to work and more likely to suffer chronic diseases like hypertension.[17] In the aftermath of the Killing of George Floyd, Clarke described the pandemic, record rates of unemployment and racial injustice caused by police brutality as a "perfect storm" for social unrest in the United States.[18]

Clarke has appeared as a legal commentator on Here and Now, A.M. Joy, PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, Sky News Tonight, and Democracy Now![19]

On January 7, 2021, President-elect Joe Biden chose Clarke to head the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Clarke said in response, "If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed, we will turn the page on hate and close the door on discrimination by enforcing our federal civil rights laws."[1]

Four days later, Fox News revealed a letter Clarke wrote to The Harvard Crimson in 1994 as an undergraduate claiming that Blacks had "superior physical and mental abilities" due to their higher levels of melanin.[20][21] The Jewish News Syndicate also noted Clarke's role as leader of Harvard's Black Student Association in 1994 in inviting antisemitic conspiracy theorist professor Tony Martin as a guest speaker on campus.[22] On January 14, 2021, Clarke apologized for inviting Tony Martin, saying, "Giving someone like him a platform, it's not something I would do again."[23]

Awards and honors[edit]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Marable, Manning; Clarke, Kristen (2009). Barack Obama and African American empowerment : the rise of Black America's new leadership (1st ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-10329-0. OCLC 608023888.
  • Marable, Manning; Clarke, Kristen (2008). Seeking higher ground : the Hurricane Katrina crisis, race, and public policy reader. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4039-8396-1. OCLC 129952587.
  • Clarke, Kristen (2008). "Race-Ing the Post-Katrina Political Landscape: An Analysis of the 2006 New Orleans Election". Seeking Higher Ground. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US: 33–37. doi:10.1057/9780230610095_3. ISBN 978-1-4039-7779-3.


  1. ^ a b Rubin, Jennifer (January 8, 2021). "Joe Biden's nominees will put 'Justice' back in the Justice Department". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Journal, A. B. A. "10 Questions: Kristen Clarke is a leader in 21st century fight for civil rights". ABA Journal. Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  3. ^ a b "Kristen Clarke". Retrieved 20 July 2020. She is also an active alumna of Prep for Prep.
  4. ^ "Prep for Prep | Social Justice & Social Impact". Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  5. ^ a b "2017 Alumni Award Presented to Kristen Clarke '93". Retrieved 20 July 2020. Choate taught her to be bold and courageous in other realms as well -- she was the only girl to join the boys wrestling squad, an opportunity for an intense workout and to challenge gender stereotypes.
  6. ^ Bishai, Graham W.; Murphy, Norah M. (12 October 2017). "A Social Blueprint: Harvard's Houses, From Randomization to Renewal". The Crimson. The Quad was “vibrant,” and “one of the most racially diverse sections of campus,” former president of the Black Student’s Association Kristen M. Clarke ’97 recalls. In 1996, only 11 percent of juniors and seniors at the college were black, while 25 percent of juniors and seniors living in Quad houses were black, according to a student-produced report. Clarke describes her time in Currier House as “a core part of my social experience on campus.” These distinctive communities within the Houses were an “opportunity for students who were in search of that kind of support network and system on campus at that time,” says Clarke.
  7. ^ Lebwohl, Martin (6 December 1994). "The BSA President's Actions Raise Unsettling Questions". The Crimson. Last week, Wellesley Professor Tony Martin spoke at Harvard at the invitation of the Black Students Association .. after the introduction, Martin lavished praise on Kristen M. Clarke '97, the BSA president, who, he said, had courageously invited him
  8. ^ "Alumni encourage students to pursue work in public service". Harvard Gazette. 2018-01-31. Retrieved 2020-07-20. Keynote speaker Kristen Clarke '97 encouraged Harvard students
  9. ^ a b c "Black Law Students Association Honors Maya Wiley '89 at Annual Paul Robeson Gala". 7 April 2014.
  10. ^ "Biography: Kristen Clarke". Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  11. ^ a b c "Kristen Clarke". Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  12. ^ "Kristen Clarke". Source of the Week. 2017-08-18. Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  13. ^ a b "Isaacson Miller Results Details". Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  14. ^ "Biography: Kristen Clarke | Howard University School of Law". Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  15. ^ a b Augustin, Stanley (9 August 2019). "National Civil Rights Organization Wins Lawsuit Against Daily Stormer and White Supremacists Engaging in Online Threats and Harassment". Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  16. ^ "Intercom - Civil Rights Attorney Kristen Clarke to Speak on the Rise of Hate Crimes". Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  17. ^ Bean, Mackenzie. "COVID-19 may disproportionately affect black Americans". Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  18. ^ "'A Perfect Storm': Kristen Clarke on the National Protests Ripping Across the Nation". NBC New York. Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  19. ^ "Kristen Clarke". IMDb. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  20. ^ Rosenberg, David (January 12, 2021). "Biden nominates Black supremacist who endorsed anti-Semitic lecturer". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  21. ^ The CRIMSON Staff (November 4, 1994). "Clarke Should Retract Statements". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  22. ^ "Biden nominee for Justice Department invited anti-Semite to Harvard University". Jewish News Syndicate. January 12, 2021.
  23. ^ Kampeas, Ron (January 14, 2021). "Kristen Clarke, top Biden civil rights nominee, says she erred in inviting anti-Semitic author to speak while at Harvard". JTA.
  24. ^ "National Bar Association "40 under 40 Best Advocates" sponsor brochure for 2016". Issuu. Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  25. ^ "American Law Journal :: Kristen Clarke ~ Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights". Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  26. ^ "2015 NYLJ Rising Stars 061615". Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  27. ^ "Kristen Clarke, Hamden's Marcus McCraven Receive Quinnipiac BLSA Awards". Hamden, CT Patch. 2017-02-28. Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  28. ^ "Louis L. Redding Gala". delawarebarristers. Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  29. ^ "The Root 100 - The Most Influential African Americans In 2019". The Root. Retrieved 2020-07-20.

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