Boston University Creates First-Ever Endowed Chair in Critical Race Theory

Portrait of Boston University School of Law Dean Dr. Angela Onwuachi-Willig. (Kathyrn Gamble/Boston University Photography)
Kathyrn Gamble/Boston University Photography

Boston University’s law school announced the establishment of an endowed chair in critical race theory and antiracism, the first in the country.

The university has named Angela Onwuachi-Willig, the law school dean and “an expert in critical race theory,” as the first Ryan Roth Gallo and Ernest J. Gallo Professor, the College Fix reported this week.

Ryan Roth Gallo, vice chair of BU’s Board of Trustees, and her husband, Ernest J. Gallo, endowed the position with a $3 million gift, wrote Alene Bouranova for Bostonia, the university’s alumni magazine, adding that the professorship “lines up with the School of Law’s history of being forward-thinking on inclusiveness in regard to race and gender.”

According to the American Law Institute (ALI), “the professorship is not only the first one at BU School of Law to support a faculty member whose research focuses on critical race theory (CRT), the study of systemic racism and its effects, with a preferred focus on the intersection of race and gender, it is the first professorship in CRT in the country.”

Roth Gallo said that CRT as well as critical race feminism, are “exciting and important areas for modern legal scholars and practitioners.”

“As we have seen for many years, and increasingly over the past summer, our country needs some new and innovative ideas about how to meet the ideal of equal justice for all,” Ryan Roth Gallo said. “It is our hope that providing an endowed chair will bring to the forefront those new ideas that will lead to changes that promote justice for all.”

Angela Onwuachi-Willig “is a longtime advocate for building structures in academia that can enable individuals or institutions to overcome or tackle racism,” the university said.

Prof. Onwuachi-Willig “founded the Lutie A. Lytle Black Women Law Faculty Workshop for mentoring current and aspiring women of color law faculty” in 2007 and is a “renowned legal scholar and expert in critical race theory, employment discrimination, and family law.”

In her war on “systemic racism,” Onwuachi-Willig has left no stone unturned, discovering racism in everything and everyone.

“Race and racism are basically baked into everything we do in our society,” she told the Boston Globe last September. “It’s embedded in our institutions. It’s embedded in our minds and hearts.”

Onwuachi-Willig writes that she has a pit in her stomach that “has been festering for decades, finding itself repeatedly punctuated and re-ignited by a cycle of direct state violence as well as state-condoned, through inaction, violence against black people.”

As a black woman serving as dean of an important law school, she says her role requires a certain amount of activism.

“What’s the point of my being in this position and being a black woman and having people laud it if I’m going to be silent in the same way that perhaps a white man would be silent in this position?” she asks.

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