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Each academic year, the RISD community works together to host a series of special events honoring the life of and contributions made by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in creating a more just and democratic society. Through talks and workshops led by leading advocates for justice, the inspiring series provides members of the RISD community and the larger public with meaningful opportunities for service, reflection and personal development.

Michelle Alexander | 2020 MLK keynote | Wednesday, January 22

Civil rights lawyer and advocate Michelle Alexander is the author of the The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, a book that helped start a national debate about mass incarceration in the US and inspired racial-justice organizing and advocacy efforts nationwide. A renowned legal scholar, she writes for numerous publications and has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, NPR, C-Span and Democracy Now, among other national radio and television outlets.

Alexander has served as a professor at several universities, including Stanford Law School and Ohio State University and, as a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, is currently exploring the moral and spiritual dimensions of mass incarceration.

More about the MLK Series

The MLK keynote address serves as the centerpiece of the MLK Series and aims to highlight the role of creative endeavor in advancing democracy and equity. The lecture honors the vast contributions of Dr. King toward creating a more just and democratic society and acknowledges an individual whose legacy of service and commitment to justice has made an indelible difference.

Past MLK honorees and keynote speakers include author and cultural critic Roxane Gay (2018), filmmaker, author and diversity trainer Lee Mun Wah (2018), artist, educator and human rights activist Emory Douglas (2017), ambassador and diplomat Andrew Young (2016), artist Faith Ringgold (2016), actor / humanitarian Danny Glover (2015), children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman (2014), artist / activist Harry Belafonte (2013), writer/activist Angela Davis (2012), nonviolence strategist Dr. Bernard Lafayette (2006), and scholar Bakari Kitwana (2005).

Watch previous keynote addresses

Cornel West | January 23, 2019

Roxane Gay | March 2, 2018

Emory Douglas | January 20, 2017

Ambassador Andrew Young | January 22, 2016

Tim Wise | October 19, 2015

Faith Ringgold | April 13, 2016

Danny Glover | January 30, 2015

Marian Wright Edelman | January 29, 2014

Harry Belafonte | January 29, 2013