Bryan Stevenson Interviewed on October 31, 2012

BCRI Oral History Collection
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:00 - Introduction and Shuttlesworth Award

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So, I’m really, really honored by this kind of recognition and to receive something in his [Fred Shuttlesworth] name and also in the name of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which is an amazing institution.

Segment Synopsis: Introduction of the interviews and response to the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award.

Keywords: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.)

Subjects: Stevenson, Bryan

GPS: The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Map Coordinates: 33.516200, -86.813870
00:00:38 - About the Equal Justice Initiative

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Sure. We at EJI, we do a lot of work around excessive punishment, around mass incarceration, around abuse of power in the criminal justice system, but we also have a project on race and poverty.

Segment Synopsis: Summarizing EJI's work.

Keywords: Mass Incarceration; Prison Reform

Subjects: Equal Justice Initiative; Montgomery County (Ala.); Stevenson, Bryan

Hyperlink: EJI Homepage
00:02:36 - Commerce St. and the Slave Trade in Montgomery, AL

Play segment

Partial Transcript: This street, Commerce St. where so much is happening, is also a place that has a very, very significant history that we're not talking about. That we haven't recognized.

Segment Synopsis: The history of the slave trade in the capital of Alabama.

Keywords: Commerce Street

Subjects: Montgomery County (Ala.); Slave trade

GPS: Commerce St. in Montgomery, Alabama
Map Coordinates: 32.379646, -86.311218
00:05:01 - Four Institutions that Shape African-American Experience

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Yeah. I'm very interested in recharacterizing the experience of African-Americans in this country through the lens of relationships with institutions. For example, I see four institutions that have shaped the hopes, the aspirations, the dreams of African-Americans in very profound ways.

Segment Synopsis: Stevenson lists four institutions that have shaped African-American experience throughout history and in the current era.

Subjects: African American history; Slavery; Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services

00:05:24 - First Institution: Slavery

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I'm looking at institutions that have been threats, barriers at a full engagement and so the institution of slavery, obviously, would be the first institution.

Segment Synopsis: The role of slavery in the African-American experience in the US

Keywords: African American history; Oppression; Slavery

Subjects: African American history

00:07:23 - Second Institution: Terror

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I think the second institution hasn't been defined as an institution but I think it's important to think about it as an institution and that was the institution of terror.

Segment Synopsis: The role of terror in the African-American experience in the US.

Keywords: Terror and society

Subjects: African American history

00:08:49 - Third Institution: Jim Crow (Segregation)

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Third institution was, of course, Jim Crow, segregation. We know a lot more about that because it's more recent, but also because there was resistance.

Segment Synopsis: The role of segregation in the African-American experience in the US.

Keywords: African Americans--Segregation

Subjects: African American history

00:11:38 - Fourth Institution: Mass Incarceration

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I think the fourth institution, because we didn't engage in truth and reconciliation, has emerged in the last 30 years and I believe that's mass incarceration.

Segment Synopsis: The role of mass incarceration in the African-American experience in the US.

Keywords: Incarceration issues; Oppression

Subjects: African American history

00:14:33 - Calendar of African-American Oppression

Play segment

Partial Transcript: We're about to publish a calendar. It's our first publication in our race and poverty project. It's a calendar that documents the African-American experience but it's not a calendar that celebrates Black achievement.

Hyperlink: EJI Calendar
00:19:23 - Mass Incarceration

Play segment

Partial Transcript: It's an interesting evolution for me. I mean I did start out, really, just working on individual cases with clients and the influence of poverty and the influence of race was so pervasive and all of these individual cases, all of my clients are poor.

Segment Synopsis: Stevenson details the factors and obstacles involved in combatting mass incarceration. He also expands on the growth and impact of mass incarceration in the US.

Keywords: Incarceration issues; Poverty

00:26:55 - International Racial Justice Work

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Yeah. Well, it's fascinating. I have done work outside of the US and it's always been an interesting experience for me.

Segment Synopsis: Stevenson details his International work in mass incarceration, the death penalty and prison reform.

Keywords: Incarceration issues; Social justice

Subjects: Equal Justice Initiative

00:30:52 - Hope

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I have to be hopeful. I think when you allow yourself to get hopeless about what can be done, you begin to prepare yourself for failure.

00:32:37 - The Economics of Mass Incarceration

Play segment

Partial Transcript: The only upside is that it's causing us to reevaluate some of these policies. I think we now realize that we are bankrupting our educational system, people are sending their kids to Auburn and Alabama and other colleges and universities in the state are paying more because we're spending millions of dollars to incarcerate people who are not a threat to public safety.

Segment Synopsis: Explanation of the economic system of mass incarceration including the impact on local economy, the role of poverty and racial profiling.

Keywords: Poverty; Racial profiling in law enforcement

Subjects: Equal Justice Initiative; Incarceration issues; Prison-industrial complex

00:37:49 - The National Work of EJI

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You know, our work has become more national. Our work with kids was national, most of those cases were done outside the state. The Lee case that went to the US Supreme Court was actually an Alabama case but our work has really been national in that issue.

Segment Synopsis: Stevenson breaks down how EJI operates on a national stage.

Subjects: Capital punishment; Equal Justice Initiative

00:40:11 - EJI in Alabama

Play segment

Partial Transcript: There's a part of that analysis which I think is true. I mean I started in Atlanta with the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee. I was doing a lot of work here in Alabama, this is in the mid-'80s, and it was clear to me that Alabama was a state where there were very few resources.

Segment Synopsis: The story of how EJI has it's roots and future in the State of Alabama.

Keywords: Alabama; Incarceration issues

Subjects: Southern Prisoners' Defense Committee