Bryan Stevenson

People's Champion
Award Winner

Mr. Stevenson, civil rights icon, is being recognized for his profound and lasting impact in the fight for equality, acceptance and justice for all Americans.

The founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.

Mr. Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults.

Mr. Stevenson has successfully argued several cases in the United States Supreme Court and recently won an historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional. He and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for over 125 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. They have initiated major new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts that challenge the legacy of racial inequality in America, including major projects to educate communities about slavery, lynching and racial segregation.

Mr. Stevenson is also a Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law.

Mr. Stevenson has launched an ambitious national effort to create new cultural spaces that reflect America’s history of racial injustice. Earlier this year EJI opened a ground-breaking museum built on the site of a former slave warehouse in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration is a companion to a national memorial to victims of lynching called the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, hailed by the Washington Post as “one of the most powerful and effective new memorials in a generation."

Memorial:

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened to the public on April 26, 2018, is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence. Work on the memorial began in 2010 when EJI staff began investigating thousands of racial terror lynchings in the American South, many of which had never been documented. EJI was interested not only in lynching incidents, but in understanding the terror and trauma this sanctioned violence against the black community created. Six million black people fled the South as refugees and exiles as a result of these "racial terror lynchings." The National Memorial for Peace and Justice provides a sacred space for truth-telling and reflection about racial terrorism and its legacy.

Museum:

Opened on the same date as the outdoor memorial, The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration is an 11,000-square-foot museum built on the site of a former warehouse where enslaved black people were imprisoned, and is located midway between an historic slave market and the main river dock and train station where tens of thousands of enslaved people were trafficked during the height of the domestic slave trade. Montgomery's proximity to the fertile Black Belt region, where slave-owners amassed large enslaved populations to work the rich soil, elevated Montgomery's prominence in domestic trafficking, and by 1860, Montgomery was the capital of the domestic slave trade in Alabama, one of the two largest slave-owning states in America.