Professor John C. Brittain’s 2021 Lesar Lecture: “Racial Awakening, Reckoning and Mindfulness in 2020”

Southern Illinois University



Professor John C. Brittain’s 2021 Lesar Lecture: “Racial Awakening, Reckoning and Mindfulness in 2020”

On February 10, 2021, noted civil rights attorney and law professor John C. Brittain presented “Racial Awakening, Reckoning and Mindfulness in 2020” for the 2021 Hiram H. Lesar Distinguished Lecture hosted by SIU School of Law. The Lesar Lecture Series was established by the School of Law in 1992 to honor founding Dean Hiram H. Lesar, whose many personal and professional concerns included an interest in civil rights. While the lectures are traditionally held in the Lesar Law Building Auditorium, Professor Brittain delivered his lecture online.

SIU School of Law Dean Camille Davidson called Professor Brittain a “living legend” who has experiences as a civil rights attorney, law professor, and former law school dean. Professor Brittain was a member of the original legal counsel in Sheff v. O’Neill that the American Civil Liberties Union calls “a groundbreaking school desegregation case in Hartford, Connecticut.” He is currently the Olie W. Rauh Professor of Law at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law where he continues to write and litigate on issues in civil and human rights, especially in education law.

Professor Brittain began his lecture with a W.E.B. DuBois’ quote from his 1903 Souls of Black Folks: “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.” He then artfully elaborated on how the many racial justice challenges ranging from the George Floyd murder in 2020 to the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection have powerfully changed public perception due, in part, to the robust media coverage. Professor Brittain argues this shift in public opinion, paired with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has created a moment of racial awakening.

You can view a recording of Professor Brittain’s lecture and subsequent discussion here.