Margaret A. Burnham
University Distinguished Professor of Law and Director, Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project
University of Pennsylvania, LLB 1969
Professor Burnham joined the Northeastern University School of Law faculty in 2002. Her fields of expertise are civil and human rights, comparative constitutional rights, and international criminal law. Professor Burnham founded and directs the School of Law’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ), which investigates racial violence in the Jim Crow era and other historical failures of the criminal justice system. CRRJ serves as a resource for scholars, policymakers and organizers involved in various initiatives seeking justice for these crimes. Among her impressive accomplishments, Professor Burnham headed a team of outside counsel and law students in a landmark case that settled a federal lawsuit. Professor Burnham’s team accused Franklin County Mississippi law enforcement officials of assisting Klansmen in the kidnapping, torture and murder of two 19-year-olds, Henry Dee and Charles Eddie Moore. CRRJ’s investigations are widely covered in the national press, including a PBS Frontline documentary series, “Un(re)solved.”
Professor Burnham began her career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In the 1970s, she represented civil rights and political activists. In 1977, she became the first African American woman to serve in the Massachusetts judiciary, when she joined the Boston Municipal Court bench as an associate justice. In 1982, she became partner in a Boston civil rights firm with an international human rights practice. In 1993, South African president Nelson Mandela appointed Professor Burnham to serve on an international human rights commission to investigate alleged human rights violations within the African National Congress. The commission was a precursor to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
A former fellow of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College and Harvard University's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Studies, Professor Burnham has written extensively on contemporary legal and political issues. In 2016, Professor Burnham was selected for the competitive and prestigious Carnegie Fellows Program. Provided to just 33 recipients nationwide that year, the fellowship provides the “country’s most creative thinkers with grants of up to $200,000 each to support research on challenges to democracy and international order.” Professor Burnham used the funding to deepen and extend CRRJ’s work and research dedicated to seeking justice for crimes of the civil rights era.
Professor Burnham’s book, By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners, will be published in 2022.
Fields of Expertise
- Careers in the Law
- Civil Rights
- Constitutional Law
- International Criminal Law
- International Law
- “Remembering Bob Moses, 1935–2021,” The Nation (July 26, 2021).
- “Lynching Memorial Forces Us to Confront Our Racist Past — And Present,” WBUR's Cognoscenti (May 2, 2018).
- “The Most Important Moment For Civil Rights This Century Is Upon Us,” WBUR's Cognoscenti (July 11, 2016).
- "The Long Civil Rights Act and Criminal Justice," 95 Boston University Law Review 687 (2015)
- "Soldiers and Buses: All Aboard," 5 Race and Justice 2 (April 2015)
- “Recasting Anti-Civil Rights Violence,”Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 42-2009 (2009).
- “The Missing Civil Rights Murders: Justice Delayed in Mississippi,” Jurist Legal News and Research (June 2007).
- “Indigenous Constitutionalism and the Death Penalty: The Case of the Commonwealth Caribbean,” 3 International Journal of Constitutional Law 582 (2005).
- “Unbowed and Unbanned: The South African Freedom Charter at Fifty,” Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies 18 (April 2005).
- “Cultivating a Seedling Charter: South Africa's Court Grows Its Constitution,” 3 Michigan Journal of Race & Law 29 (1997).
- “Property, Parenthood and Peonage: Reflections on the Return to Status Quo Antebellum,” 18 Cardozo Law Review 433 (1996).
- “An Impossible Marriage: Slave Law and Family Law,” 5 University of Minnesota Journal of Law & Inequality 187 (1987).
- “Retrospective Justice in the Age of Innocence: The Hard Case of Rape Executions,” in Wrongful Convictions and the DNA Revolution: Twenty-Years of Freeing the Innocent, ed. D. Medwed (Cambridge University Press, 2017).
- “Scottsboro Boys,” in Encyclopedia of Race & Racism, 2nd Edition, ed. P. Mason (Macmillan Reference USA, 2011).
- “The Death Penalty in East Africa: Law, Politics and Transnational Advocacy,” in Human Rights NGOs in East Africa: Defining the Challenges, ed. M. Mutua (2007).
- “Legal Aid, Legal Services and Public Defender Organizations,” in Legal Chowder: Lawyering and Judging in Massachusetts, ed. R. Kass (2002).
- “Biden Nominates Civil Rights Lawyer Margaret Burnham for Federal Civil Rights Cold Case Review Board,” Northeastern News (June 16, 2021).
- “Call For Action: The Guilty Verdicts in Derek Chauvin’s Trial Were Just the Beginning,” Northeastern News (April 22, 2021).
- “Derek Chauvin’s Guilty Verdict Is a Step Toward Justice and Police Reform–but It’s Not the End of Racism in the US,” Northeastern News (April 20, 2021).
- “Payback for Pain and Loss: Reparations for Relatives of Lynching Victims?,” Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting (November 24, 2020).
- “Reparations ‘Essential’ to Addressing Systemic Racial Injustice, Speakers Say,” Northeastern News (November 17, 2020).
- “72 Years Before George Floyd, This Police Killing Sparked National Protests,” Experience Magazine (November 12, 2020).
- “Don’t Touch Your Face: Pandemic Within a Pandemic,” Foreign Policy Podcast (June 15, 2020).
- “US Police Brutality Protests,” Al-Jazeera (June 2020).
- “How Do Today’s Black Lives Matter Protests Compare to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s?,” Northeastern News (June 4, 2020).
- “The Half Was Never Told: Honoring George Floyd,” CRRJ Blog (June 2, 2020).
- “A Black Man was Killed in Georgia, Should the Case be Tried as a Hate Crime?,” Northeastern News (May 21, 2020).
- “What We Can Learn From the Blacklash to the The New York Times History of Slavery in the United States,” Northeastern News (August 21, 2019).
- “Toni Morrison’s Influence Extends Beyond Literature,” Northeastern News (August 9, 2019).
- “Mobilian Honored With Street Dedication 70 Years After His Murder,” WSFA (August 18, 2018).
- “Recalling Their Names: Mobile Honors Victims of Jim Crow-Era Killings,”AL.com (August 18, 2018).
- “After Seven Decades, Alabama Honors Jim Crow-Era Victims,”Northeastern News (August 18, 2018).
- “Memorializing Racially-Motivated Deaths Beyond Lynchings,” The American Homefront Project (August 14, 2018).
- “A Black Family Confronts a 70-Year-Old Killing and a White Man’s Exoneration,”The Washington Post (August 11, 2018).
- “Mobile Street Name to Honor Jim Crow-Era Murder Victim,”Miami Herald (July 24, 2018).
- “Northeastern Program Uncovers the Stories Behind the Victims Of Lynching and Other Racial Violence in the Jim Crow Era,” WGBH's Greater Boston (May 2, 2018).
- “Engaging Imaginations, Making History,” Carnegie Reporter (April 26, 2018).
- "A Lynching's Long Shadow,"The New York Times (April 25, 2018).
- “Great-Grandson of Lynching Victim Faces the Past: "This is American History," (CBS Evening News, April 10, 2018).
- “Doug Jones: A Civil Rights Deep Diver,” CRRJ Blog (December 20, 2017).
- “Northeastern Faculty, Lebanese Judiciary Convene in Beirut to Discuss Alternatives to Incarceration,” Northeastern News (October 17, 2017).
- "Sessions Feigns Concern For Asian-Americans To Gut Affirmative Action," WBUR's Cognoscenti (August 4, 2017).
- "A Reality Check on Claims of Vintage 'Fake News',”The Washington Post (January 5, 2017).
- "Bringing Justice, and Closure, in Civil Rights Cold Case,"news@Northeastern (January 5, 2017).
- “Getting Away With Murder,”The Marshall Project (January 3, 2017).
- “Trump is Just the Latest Obstacle on the Zigzagging Course of Racial Progress,”The Guardian (December 19, 2016)
- “Foundation Names 33 Andrew Carnegie Fellows Winners,” The New York Times (April 19, 2016).
- “A Lynching Kept Out of Sight,”The Washington Post (September 2, 2016).
- “The Cold Cases of the Jim Crow Era,”The New York Times (August 28, 2015).
- “The New Great Dissenter: On Affirmative Action, Sotomayor Gets It Right,”Cognoscenti, WBUR (April 25, 2014).
- “Are We Finally Ready To Reduce Racial Bias In Our Courts?‚”Cognoscenti, WBUR (March 4, 2014).
- “The Language of Violence,”News@Northeastern (August 15, 2017).
- “Sessions Feigns Concern For Asian-Americans To Gut Affirmative Action,” WBUR's Cognoscenti (August 4, 2017).
- “Tuskegee Hosts Conference Remembering Those Fallen to Injustice,” WSFA 12 News (June 10, 2017).
- “A Reality Check on Claims of Vintage 'Fake News',”The Washington Post (January 5, 2017).
- “Bringing Justice, and Closure, in Civil Rights Cold Case,” News@Northeastern (January 5, 2017).
- “Getting Away With Murder,” The Marshall Project (January 3, 2017).
- “Trump is Just the Latest Obstacle on the Zigzagging Course of Racial Progress,”The Guardian (December 19, 2016).
- “A Lynching Kept Out of Sight,”The Washington Post (September 2, 2016).
- “CRRJ Provides First Full Account of Notorious 1947 Georgia Jailhouse Killing,”Northeastern University School of Law (August 22, 2016).
- “Northeastern honors community’s highest achievements,” News@Northeastern (April 21, 2016).
- “Law Professor Margaret Burnham Named Carnegie Fellow,”News@Northeastern (April 19, 2016).
- “Margaret Burnham Restores Justice in Violent Cold Cases,”Long Beach Press Telegram (February 26, 2016).
- “3Qs: Law professor remembers civil rights icon,”News@Northeastern (August 20, 2015).
- “Baltimore Wasn’t The First City To Burn, And It Won’t Be The Last,”Cognoscenti, WBUR (May 1, 2015).
- Radio Interview: “Obama Walks a Fine Line on Baltimore riots,”RN Breakfast Radio (April 30, 2015).
- Radio interview: “Streetcars Center of Many Racially Motivated Killings,”On Second Thought Radio (January 15, 2015).
- Radio interview: “Documenting Jim Crow Era Deaths,”Morning Show, BYU Radio (January 14, 2015).
- “Alabama's Jim Crow Era Murders Under New Spotlight,”AL.Com (January 8, 2015).
- “The Goal: To Remember Each Jim Crow Killing, From The ‘30s On,”Code Switch, NPR (January 3, 2015).
- “A trip back to Atlanta’s Streetcars in the Jim Crow Era,”The Atlanta-Journal Constitution (January 2, 2015).
- “Northeastern University Students Uncover Forgotten Killings From Jim Crow Era,”The Boston Globe (December 21, 2014).
- "The Significance of Nobel Peace Award Shared by Indian and Pakistani Activists," CCTV America (October 2014)