Florida Law School establishes Ben Crump Center for Social Justice

A South Florida law school will announce on Thursday the creation of a social justice center named after Ben Crump, the black civil rights lawyer who gained national notoriety by representing victims of police brutality and violence self-defense.

The Benjamin L. Crump Center for Social Justice, located at St. Thomas University College of Law in Miami Gardens, aims to educate the next generation of civil rights lawyers while further encouraging racial and gender diversity in the legal profession, school officials said. .

Calls for racial justice have grown in importance following the 2020 protests against the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. But the nation lacks a solid pool of social justice lawyers ready to take on such cases, said Crump, who has represented the families of Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Breonna Taylor, among others.

“We’re really trying to prepare an army – the next generation of social justice engineers,” the Tallahassee, Florida-based lawyer told The Associated Press.

“We will have the next Thurgood Marshall, the next Constance Baker Motley or the next Kamala Harris, to light the way for our community and secure America’s promise of freedom and justice for all,” Crump added.

From a $ 1 million leadership grant from the Truist Financial Corp. Charity Fund, the Crump Center will support an incubation program for students seeking to establish themselves in the field of civil rights and justice. social. The center will also increase student financial assistance as needed and assist new lawyers with expanded pro bono service placements.

“No one becomes Ben Crump from their first day as a lawyer, but mentorship is essential to building confidence and the platform for people to excel,” said Tamara Lawson, Dean of St. Thomas University College of Law.

Lawson said the center will focus on training students to become leaders in the field of social justice. “It’s not just about participating in the work, it’s about creating the vision and taking it to the next level,” she said.

On Thursday, the law school will also launch a $ 35 million fundraising campaign to expand its continuing education as lawyers fighting for social justice. The money is expected to be used for the construction of a new building for the Crump Center, as well as new classrooms and mock courtrooms, Lawson said.

The university’s announcement comes a week after Crump, along with civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton and the family of Ahmaud Arbery, announced guilty verdicts in the murder trial of three white men in the death d’Arbery. The 25-year-old black man was hunted down and then shot dead in February 2020 while running in the men’s quarter in Brunswick, Georgia. The verdicts marked another high-profile victory for Crump, who some call “the attorney general of black America.” “

As the former president of the National Bar Association, the largest network of predominantly black lawyers and judges, Crump said civil law and social justice was not seen as a lucrative area of ​​practice for aspiring lawyers. He said he hoped lending the center his name would inspire law students to view social justice as a worthy activity throughout their careers.


Morrison is based in New York City and writes on race and justice for the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison.

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Nancy I. Romero