In 1998, Lani Guinier became the first black woman to be appointed to a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School. Before joining the Harvard faculty, she was a tenured professor for 10 years at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. During the 1980s, she headed the voting rights project at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and served in the Civil Rights Division during the Carter administration as a special assistant to then-Assistant Attorney General Drew S. Days. Guinier came into public attention when she was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993 to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice only to have her name withdrawn without a confirmation hearing—an experience she turned into a personal and political memoir, Lift Every Voice.
Guinier is the author of many books, articles and op-ed pieces on democratic theory, political representations, educational equity, and issues of race and gender. Her works include Becoming Gentlemen: Women, Law School and Institutional Change, in which she and her coauthors discuss how women were not graduating with top honors even though they came to law school with the same credentials as male graduates. Other titles include The Tyranny of the Majority, Who’s Qualified and The Miner’s Canary.
A graduate of Radcliffe College of Harvard University and Yale Law School, Guinier has received numerous awards, including the 1995 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession; the Champion of Democracy Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus; the Rosa Parks Award from the American Association for Affirmative Action; the Harvey Levin Teaching Award from the University of Pennsylvania; and the Sacks-Freund Teaching Award from Harvard Law School. She has received 11 honorary degrees from schools including Smith College, Spelman College, Swarthmore Collect and the University of the District of Columbia.