Northeastern's heralded civil rights program gets big donation

Many of our nation's past sins lie in the darkest of shadows. The Civil Rights and Restortative Justice Program (CRRJ) at Boston's Northeastern University School of Law looks to bring them to light. And it got a significant boost to carry on that mission when the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded $750,000 to support its work, which is investigating and archiving acts of racial terror in the South between 1930 and the 1970s.

CRRJ is the nation’s pioneer program in examining current racial inequities through the lens of history and seeking creative reparative justice. For a decade, CRRJ has investigated, publicized and remediated historical cases of racial homicide.

The Mellon Foundation grant will be used to deepen the work of the CRRJ Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive, a collection of primary source documents as well as still images and interviews on cases of racially motivated homicides between 1930 and 1970 in 12 southern states.

CRRJ has identified 2,000 racial homicide cases from 15 southern and border states that it plans to add to the exiting archive of 500 cases. Among those are 100 cases that were previously largely unknown to the public, including the only racial lynching death of a US soldier on a US Army base, the first mob killing of an NAACP officer and the shooting death of a would-be Georgia voter. 

“This support will allow us to take advantage of the latest technologies, collect and preserve more primary sources, offer a forum for more communities and empower more students to engage critically with history, racism and the role of law in these pivotal decades of the 20th century,” said University Distinguished Professor of Law Margaret Burnham, founder and director of CRRJ. “We are particularly keen to work with our colleagues at Snell Library as they create unique open source technologies to host and manage the CRRJ Burnham-Nobles Archive.”

This grant follows another one, which was made The Ford Foundation. That two-year grant of $300,000 will also be used for the digitical archive effort. 

CRRJ’s work has been featured in the national press many times, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the “CBS Evening News,” among many others. CRRJ’s model of combining academic investigation and community remediation launched the projects of a cadre of researchers and practitioners in the field of racial violence and CRRJ continues to lead collaborations across the country, including contributing information regarding victims who are memorialized in the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala.