Welcome to the Evolving Man Project’s ‘Evolved Man of the Week’ profile. Each week, we will highlight an individual that embodies what it means to be an evolved man, famous and non-famous alike. The world needs to know their stories and deeds. This week, we honor Harvard lawyer, human rights activist, professor, author, and the executive director of Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan A. Stevenson. He is a man who has dedicated his entire life to justice and equality. Bryan has a deep knowledge of America’s tragic and brutal history and connects that history to the struggle many folks still face today in the age of the New Jim Crow.
And we want to talk more about slavery and we want to talk more about this era between Reconstruction and World War II, which I call “An Era of Racial Terrorism” — of racial terror and violence that shaped attitudes. I want to talk more about the civil rights era, not through the lens of celebration. 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.”
Bryan was raised in Delaware, where he was heavily influenced by the powerful matriarchs in his family. They instilled the values of hard-work, mercy, sobriety and justice into him at a very young age. As a man, Mr. Stevenson carries these cores values with him and it anchors him in the important work done by the Equal Justice Initiative. Mr. Stevenson stays humble despite his meaningful work, and knows there’s still much more to be done in the name of justice. Bryan Stevenson is a true example of #BlackBoyJoy and #BlackLivesMatter.
“We are a bunch of lawyers with a huge case load,” he says. “I’m not sure why this hasn’t been taken on by anyone else. But I increasingly think this is the necessary step that leads to a degree of humility around these issues.”
It’s amazing that Mr. Stevenson manages anytime to keep a day job with his busy schedule and multiple speaking engagements. He still finds time for his law students at New York University. His thoughts on teaching the next generation of human rights and public interest attorneys:
“offers an excellent opportunity to explore ways of training law students to consider the legal needs of the poor and to effectively serve the indigent in resource-deprived regions such as the American deep south.”
Mr. Stevenson over the years has amassed a plethora of awards and accolades for his human rights advocacy in the name criminal justice reform. They include the MacArthur Fellowship, the Reebok Human Rights Award, Public Interest Lawyer of the Year, and the NAACP Image Award for Best Non-Fiction. He’s received multiple honorary degrees from universities, such as his alma mater, Harvard University and other schools which include Yale and Georgetown University. In 2015, he became a New York Times best-selling author for his ground-breaking and heartfelt memoir Just Mercy. Even with all this prestige and acclaim, Mr. Stevenson stays true to his core values of justice and never forgets those who we have forgotten as a society.
“The same is true for poverty. We’ve got a bigger population of poor people in this country than we’ve had in a generation, and we’ve got to take on the challenges of poverty. … For me, that means taking it on in a different way. I’m not persuaded that the opposite of poverty is wealth — I’ve come to believe … that the opposite of poverty is justice.”
Today, we honor Mr. Stevenson as this week’s Evolved Man of the Week.