Research Expertise and Interest
Civil rights and civil liberties, structural racialization, racial justice and regionalism, concentrated poverty and urban sprawl, opportunity based housing, voting rights, affirmative action in the United States, South Africa and Brazil, racial and ethnic identity, spirituality and social justice, and the needs of citizens in a democratic society
john a. powell is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties and a wide range of issues including race, structural racism, ethnicity, housing, poverty, and democracy. In addition to being a Professor of Law and Professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies, Professor powell holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion. He is also the Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute (formerly known as the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society), which supports research to generate specific prescriptions for changes in policy and practice that address disparities related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and socioeconomics in California and nationwide. He was recently the Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University and held the Gregory H. Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties at the Moritz College of Law.
Professor powell has written extensively on a number of issues including structural racism, racial justice and regionalism, concentrated poverty and urban sprawl, opportunity based housing, voting rights, affirmative action in the United States, South Africa and Brazil, racial and ethnic identity, spirituality and social justice, and the needs of citizens in a democratic society.
Previously, Professor powell founded and directed the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota. He also served as Director of Legal Services in Miami, Florida and was National Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union where he was instrumental in developing educational adequacy theory. Professor powell has worked and lived in Africa, where he was a consultant to the governments of Mozambique and South Africa. He has also lived and worked in India and done work in South America and Europe. He is one of the co-founders of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council and serves on the board of several national organizations. Professor powell has taught at numerous law schools including Harvard and Columbia University. He is the author of several books, including his most recent work, Racing to Justice: Transforming our Concepts of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society.
In the News
June 27, 2022
The landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court will almost immediately limit access to abortions in some states, but in the days and weeks to come, the shock waves will reach deeply into American life, UC Berkeley scholars say. Berkeley News asked a range of top campus scholars for their perspectives about the decision and its ramifications. Here’s what they told us.
November 4, 2020
UC Berkeley scholars awoke Wednesday, Nov. 4 to signs of a deeply divided U.S. electorate, and no blue wave on the horizon. Despite a surge in early voting, ballots were still being counted in several battleground states. As of noon that day, the race between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden remained too close to call.
October 9, 2020
Generations of racism shaped the structures of the United States, working into the very DNA of our institutions and culture. Simply reforming the structures won’t do, a panel of experts said Friday, Oct. 9 at a UC Berkeley event. Instead, the experts urged, we must work to build a more just world.
September 14, 2020
Scientists in the United States spent centuries attempting to find biological differences among racial groups to justify an imagined hierarchy, but it’s past time to dismantle the systems created on those unfounded principles, a panel of experts explained on Friday at a UC Berkeley online event.
August 10, 2020
The racial justice and environmental justice movements have functioned independently for far too long, according to three UC Berkeley scholars.
June 26, 2020
Structural Racism and COVID19: The Political Divide, Re-Opening the Society and Health Impacts on People of Color
At a time when the pandemic is being politicized, a panel of UC Berkeley scholars called on Friday for bridging among different social and racial groups to help recognize their common interests and to emerge from COVID-19 more unified.
June 9, 2020
The racial justice movement sweeping across the country presents an opportunity to radically transform America to more equitably serve all of its citizens, panelists concluded during an online event Monday organized by UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute.
September 6, 2019
On Friday, Aug. 30, UC Berkeley held a symposium that marked the start of a yearlong initiative, “400 Years of Resistance to Slavery and Oppression,” commemorating the 400th anniversary of the forced arrival of enslaved Africans in the English colonies with a daylong symposium.