Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Civil rights attorney Ben Crump talks past, future of legal activism at Black Pre-Law Association keynote

Taylor Hancock/The Daily Northwestern
Ben Crump shared insights over Zoom with the Black Pre-Law Association.

Northwestern’s Black Pre-Law Association kicked off its winter speaker series Thursday night at the Black House, inviting the Black community to hear from Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump.

In his talk, Crump recognized Martin Luther King Jr.’s legal experience and explained how he has carried his guidance with him throughout his legal career. Crump said he views it as the responsibility of upcoming lawyers as remembering the difference between what is the law and what is right.

“(Dr.King) said no, if you’re gonna say you’re a good person, then you have to acknowledge that we have to challenge injustice,” Crump said. “We have to challenge corruption, we have to challenge evil or we can’t call ourselves good.” 

The civil rights advocate described his upbringing in a segregated town in North Carolina where he learned firsthand about the origins of racial discrimination. He said that from a young age he has been interested in the disparities between Black and white communities, and was particularly inspired by Thurgood Marshall to help fight for racial equality.

Throughout his career, Crump represented a number of families in high-profile cases, including those of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Tyre Nichols, Ahmaud Arbery and many others. Crump described how he has handled such emotional cases and pushed forward.

“What helps me deal with the tragedy and the loss — and I get asked this question often — is the fact that I know that we’re going to win,” Crump said. “I know we’re going to win. I know the enemies of equality won’t win, based on precedent.”

Communication sophomore and BPLA president Hannah Callentine said she hopes the organization’s speaker series can help create community for Black students by hosting inspiring guests like Crump.

“(My mission was) not only to make it a supportable environment for Black students at Northwestern who wanted to go pre-law, but also to just be a loving, supportive community, a genuine safe space, where not only leadership but community members are all supporting you,” Callentine said. “Something that is supportive without being competitive, where you can just feel the culture being a positive community.”

Leaders of BPLA also shared new club developments, including a new sponsorship by the Princeton Review that will support three scholarships for selected BPLA members to help prepare for the LSATs. Leaders also spotlighted a new mentorship program pairing undergraduate students with Pritzker School of Law students.

The event was open to all students in the Black community. Medill junior Kaitlin Bender-Thomas said she anticipated the event for weeks ahead and was not disappointed. 

“I really loved it,” Bender-Thomas said. “He was such a powerful speaker, and so motivating. I had to wipe my eyes when he was talking because I really felt what he was saying about the role that we can have as Black lawyers and the impact we can make on the world meant a lot to me.”


Email: [email protected]

X: @taylorhancock23

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