Acclaimed social-justice activist, “Just Mercy” author Bryan Stevenson delivers WSU Common Reading Invited Lecture Dec. 1

PULLMAN, Wash. — Executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” Bryan Stevenson will deliver the ninth annual Common Reading Invited Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, at Beasley Coliseum on the Washington State University campus. The public is welcome at the free address, which will be followed by a book signing.

Stevenson, 56, is nationally acclaimed for his life’s work of challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the U.S. Supreme Court, and was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2015. He has also developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice.

WSU’s use of “Just Mercy”

His book, “Just Mercy,” offers Stevenson’s first-person accounts of the many people and cases he has worked on in his years as a Harvard-educated lawyer and social justice activist. It informs readers why he believes that “each person in our society is more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.”

“‘Just Mercy’ was selected as the WSU 2015 common reading book shortly after it was published in 2014, and topics from it have inspired countless classroom discussions and robust programming for our first-year and other students, faculty, and staff,” said Susan Poch, co-director of the Common Reading Program.

“The issues he champions are ones central to the current national conversation about race and about justice,” added Karen Weathermon, Common Reading co-director. “The opportunity to welcome such a renowned national figure as Mr. Stevenson to our campus and community is a great honor.” Weathermon points to Stevenson’s online Ted Talk and media stories featuring his messaging.

Compassion in the pursuit of justice

Stevenson grew up in southern Delaware, graduated from Eastern University, received a full scholarship to Harvard Law School, and attended Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He worked at the Southern Center for Human Rights, which represents death-row inmates throughout the South. He has raised funds to end the practice of incarcerating children in adult jails and prisons. Today he is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., and a professor of law at New York University Law School.

His awards also include the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant, the Gruber Justice Prize, and the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Nonfiction for “Just Mercy.” More information about the popular, national guest speaker is online at

Programming at WSU

The WSU Common Reading Program is the center for information and programming around topics contained in a single book used by thousands of students in classrooms and highlighted in extracurricular programming in residence halls, expert lectures, and events. Since the program began nine years ago, more than 30,000 WSU students have benefited from the academic discourse and resources associated with the selected books.

The Common Reading Selection Committee is currently evaluating nominations for the 2016-17 book that align with a two-year theme of social justice and leadership.