Bryan Stevenson elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; wins ALBA/Puffin award and Vera Institute of Justice award

Professor Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, has been elected a member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences for his accomplishments with the EJI.

Professor Bryan StevensonThe American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected 204 new members this year, including Nobel Prize winner in chemistry Dan Shechtman; Pulitzer Prize winners Jules Feiffer, a cartoonist, and Annie Proulx, a novelist; and director and actor Al Pacino. The academy challenges its own—leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors—to address challenges facing society. “The knowledge and expertise of our members give the Academy a unique capacity—and responsibility—to provide practical policy solutions to the pressing challenges of the day,” says Don Randel, chair of the academy’s board of directors. “We look forward to engaging our new members in this work.”

As the executive director and founder of EJI, which is based in Montgomery, AL, Stevenson has successfully taken on the causes of juveniles sentenced to life imprisonment, adults facing the death penalty, and the poor; he has appeared on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and elsewhere to create a frank and open dialogue around injustice and discrimination in this country. “We have a system of justice in [the US] that treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent,” Stevenson said during a March 2012 TED talk at which audience members pledged more than $1 million in donations to EJI. “Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes."

Indeed, April has brought a shower of recognition for Stevenson and the EJI. In addition to the AAAS election, on April 8 Stevenson received a public service award from the Vera Institute of Justice—whose mission is to improve justice and safety systems in the US. On April 27, Stevenson will also be honored with the ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism. The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives connects the legacy of the International Brigades—the 40,000 volunteers from all over the world who helped fight fascism during the Spanish Civil War—to international activist causes of today. The award, which will provide $100,000 to fund the EJI’s work, recognizes Stevenson’s commitment to addressing poverty and challenging racial discrimination. About honoring Stevenson, Sebastiaan Faber, chair of ALBA, stated simply in a release: “I can’t think of anyone more worthy of this honor.”

Watch Stevenson’s speech below (32 min):

Posted April 25, 2014