The University of North Carolina School of Law has a long, complicated relationship with civil rights. Founded in 1845 as part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the law school has been training lawyers and advocates for generations. Yet UNC Law did not graduate any women until 1915, and accepted its first Black student only in 1951–more than one hundred years after its founding–after a federal court ordered the school to enroll qualified Black applicants on equal protection grounds. Today, our alumni include civil rights giants such as Julius L. Chambers, former Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, as well as delegates to the 1861 State Convention that approved North Carolina’s secession from the United States in order to protect slavery across the South.
In light of this history–as well as more recent struggles within the school and state–in 2019, UNC Law students organized a new journal dedicated to civil rights legal scholarship. Named the North Carolina Civil Rights Law Review, the journal operates in collaboration with the UNC Center for Civil Rights and integrates the long-running Conference on Race, Class, Gender, and Ethnicity (CRCGE) as its annual symposium. The journal aims to publish innovative, important commentary and analysis of civil rights law, with the goal of protecting and advancing individuals’ actual lived experience of civil rights, liberty, and equality today. We hope the journal contributes to a continued, vigorous, creative wrestling with the law in order to make it a more perfect instrument for justice, liberty, and dignity for the people of North Carolina and the United States.