Randall L. Kennedy: "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word"


Randall L. Kennedy

Document Type

Metadata Only



Lecture Series

President's Lecture Series


Randall L. Kennedy is an American law professor and author at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law and focuses his research on the intersection of racial conflict and legal institutions in American life. He specializes in the areas of contracts, freedom of expression, race relations law, civil rights legislation, and the Supreme Court.

Kennedy was born September 10, 1954, in Columbia, South Carolina, the middle child of Henry Kennedy Sr., a postal worker, and Rachel Kennedy, an elementary school teacher. He has two siblings, Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., a former United States District Court Judge for the District of Columbia, and Angela Kennedy, a lawyer at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Kennedy has stated that tales of racial oppression and racial resistance were staples of conversation in his household. His father often spoke of watching Thurgood Marshall argue Rice vs. Elmore, the case that invalidated the rule permitting only whites to vote in South Carolina's Democratic primary. Later that decade, fleeing the abuses of Jim Crow, his parents moved from South Carolina to Washington, D.C.

Kennedy attended St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., Princeton University (A.B. cum laude, 1977), the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar (graduate studies, 1977–79), and Yale Law School (J.D., 1982). While at Yale, Kennedy served as an editor for the Yale Law Journal. He served as a law clerk for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1982–83 and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court from 1983-84. He was admitted to the Washington, D.C. bar in 1983. Additionally, he is a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Philosophical Association.

Media Type


Run Time

67:00 min


A 1/2" VHS copy of this lecture is available in the Special Collections & University Archives Department of Old Dominion University Perry Library. Call #: LD4331.A57 2003b

This document is currently not available here.