Law Center News
HBCU students participate in civil rights and restorative justice research cohort
The Southern University Law Center’s Louis A. Berry Institute For Civil Rights and Justice has partnered with three prominent Historically Black Colleges to pilot a collaborative HBCU project that will train college and law students to investigate racially motivated cold cases from the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. The Burnham Honors Cohort is a new experiential learning opportunity that introduces high-performing undergraduate and law school students to civil rights case investigations and restorative justice. It expands on SULC’s decade-long summer fellowship/externship with The Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) at Northeastern University School of Law and creates new partnerships with the historic Tougaloo and Philander Smith colleges. The CCRJ’s founder and director, Margaret Burnham, is the inspiration for and namesake of this new research cohort to uncover and address racial harms from the civil rights period.
“I started this program in 2007. The objective was to find all the cases where African Americans, during the Jim Crow period, had lost their lives to racist violence,” said Margaret Burnham, professor of law and founder of The Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University. “We collected a thousand of those cases. We continue to work with students all across the country to gather information about these cases, to work with the families, and to let students know that this history still lives.”
The cohort is comprised of six high-achieving students from three HBCUs that are geographically located in states of interest: Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Southern University Law Center, Tougaloo College, and Philander Smith College were selected for their historical contributions to civil rights and aligned missions of access to education for African Americans.
"Our hope is not only to situate and grow this work in the places with the greatest need for truth and reconciliation but to also create new pathways for college students into law school and law students into civil rights and reparative work,” said Ada G. Lampkin, director of the SULC Louis A. Berry Institute for Civil Rights and Justice.
The cohort members selected from Southern University Law Center are Whitley Parker and Victoria Ardoin. Philander Smith's students are Dasia Turner and Amari Brantley. Lastly, students from Tougaloo College are LaChassity Jackson and Blaise Adams.
The cohort researched and presented on the following cases:
Dasia Turner: Lettie Mae Gilliam (1953, Blytheville, AR)
Amari Brantley: Larry Wainwright (1967, El Dorado, AR)
LaChassity Jackson: Beulah Melton (1956, Glendora, MS)
Blaise Adams: Jonas Richard (1958, Yazoo City, MS)
Victoria Ardoin: Prince Selvage & Andrew Coycault (1959, Baton Rouge & 1954, New Orleans, LA)
Whitley Parker: Kenneth Borden (1970, New Orleans, LA)
The idea for this cohort was birthed in the spring of 2021 when Southern University Law Center, Tougaloo College, and the National Civil Rights Conference teamed up with Frontline PBS to assist with a yearlong unveiling of the UnResolved Project. Collaborators wanted to continue this Restorative Justice work, involve student researchers, and honor Margaret Burnham for the exceptional work that she has done for the country. As a result, the Margaret Burnham Honors Cohort was established.
"A full circle moment is happening as we speak," said Lampkin. "I was fortunate to be one of the few in that first CRRJ fellowship. What I learned that first summer stayed with me, obviously, and made me a better steward of Justice in every way imaginable. It also taught me to see the world through the lens of racial equity, revere truth as a virtue, and understand how intergenerational trauma from the racial violence of the Jim Crow and civil rights period impacts us to this day."
The cohort was an attempt to grow a new generation to value and continue this work, but also create pipelines to law school so this work may continue in earnest. Students worked for 10 weeks on case investigations, Restorative Justice projects, and seminars to grow their curiosity and understanding of topics not customary to the traditional college or law school curriculum. They even met with surviving relatives and friends of the case victims to gain perspective for their research.
With the success of the first cohort, Lampkin, Burnham, and collaborators look to continue to host these honor groups to foster research, training, and community relationships.
Learn more about the cohort here.RSS News Feed