Justice Advocate Says Civil Rights Fight Goes On


Americans are “too celebratory” about gains in civil rights, legal advocate Bryan Stevenson tells Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” He says the U.S. criminal justice system is rife with racial prejudice that demands diligent attention. Stevenson, executive director of the Montgomery, Ala.-based Equal Justice Initiative, helped exonerate Walter McMillian, a black man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Alabama. Stevenson is the author of a new memoir, “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.’

He tells Gross, “We’re too celebratory of civil rights these days. We have these 50th anniversaries and everyone is happy and everybody is celebrating. Nobody is talking about the hardship. It’s almost as if the civil rights movement was this three-day event: On Day 1, Rosa Parks didn’t give up her seat on the bus. On Day 2, [the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.] led a march on Washington. And on the third day, we signed all of these laws. And if you think about that history in that way, you minimize the trauma, the damage, the divides that were created. You can’t segregate and humiliate people decade after decade without creating long-lasting injuries.”

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