John Payton on "Race, Law and Politics in America: Have we become a post-racial society?"





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Published on Oct 30, 2009

John A. Payton, one of the nation's top lawyers and a prominent African-American civil rights attorney, was appointed as the sixth president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 2008. His address will start with a review of what happened in the United States during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period when after ten years of relatively open democracy all black people were disenfranchised.

With that historical perspective, he discussed whether we have become a "post-racial" society whether "we are past all of these issues that have plagued us for 200-plus years."


The Mitchell Lecture Series was endowed in 1950 by a gift from Lavinia A. Mitchell, in memory of her husband, James McCormick Mitchell. An 1897 graduate of the Buffalo Law School, Mitchell later served as chairman of the Council of the University of Buffalo, which was then a private university. Justice Robert H. Jackson delivered the first Mitchell Lecture in 1951, titled "Wartime Security and Liberty Under Law." The lecture was published that year in the first issue of the Buffalo Law Review.

Mitchell Lecture programs have brought many distinguished speakers to the University at Buffalo Law School. These have included Irene Khan, C. Edwin Baker, Derrick Bell, Barry Cushman, Carol Gilligan, Elizabeth Holtzman, Stewart Macaulay, Catharine McKinnon, Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Richard Posner, and Clyde Summers. To learn more about UB Law School's Mitchell Lecture series, visit

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