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The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Lani Guinier

b. April 19, 1950

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Lani Guinier until we are able to commission a full entry.

Lani Guinier.

Courtesy of Penn State University.

Lani Guinier’s groundbreaking work in law and civil rights theory led to her becoming the first woman of color granted tenure at Harvard Law School. Guinier graduated from Radcliffe in 1971 and Yale Law School in 1974 before working under Assistant Attorney General Drew S. Days in the Civil Rights Division. In 1981 she joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, later leading their voting rights project. She taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School for a decade before joining the faculty of Harvard Law School in 1998. In 1993 Bill Clinton nominated her for assistant attorney general for civil rights, but conservatives blocked her appointment by misrepresenting her views and claiming she was in favor of racial quotas. Guinier has explored various possible reforms to ensure that racial and religious minorities have a say in government, such as proportional representation, where each party gets a number of seats based on their percentage of voters, instead of winner-take-all elections. She is the author of numerous books and articles on civil rights and social reform, including The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in a Democracy in 2015.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Lani Guinier." (Viewed on March 24, 2023) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/guinier-lani>.


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