Bryan Stevenson, social justice activist and founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), delivered the keynote address during Howard University’s 153rd Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 8, 2021.
Due to the pandemic and safety requirements, Stevenson addressed the members of the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 in a modified ceremony for graduates only. The full event was available to friends and family via livestream.
Stevenson is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy, which chronicles on of Stevenson’s first EJI clients, Walter McMillian, a “young Black man who was sentenced to die for the murder of a young white woman that he didn’t commit. The case exemplifies how the death penalty in America is a direct descendant of lynching — a system that treats the rich and guilty better than the poor and innocent.”
The book was named by Time Magazine as one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014 and has been awarded several honors, including the American Library Association’s Carnegie Medal for best nonfiction book of 2015 and a 2015 NAACP Image Award. Just Mercy was adapted into a major motion picture in 2019 starring Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson and Jamie Foxx as McMillian.