People / Faculty


john a. powell

Professor of Ethnic Studies, African American Studies, and Law

Comparative Ethnic Studies

Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, Democracy, Housing, Poverty, Structural Racism

University of Minnesota, Post-Graduate Human Rights Fellow, 1978-1980
University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall), Juris Doctor, 1973
Stanford University, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Philosophy Minor, 1969

John powell


590 Barrows Hall


t: 510-643-0796

More Info:

Bio & Research Interests

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 at UC Berkeley, powell holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion. He is also the Director of the Othering and Belonging Institute, which brings together researchers, organizers, stakeholders, communicators, and policymakers to identify and eliminate the barriers to an inclusive, just, and sustainable society and to create transformative change toward a more equitable world. 

Prof.  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.


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Select publications


Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society. Indiana University Press. 2012.

In Pursuit of a Dream Deferred: Linking Housing and Education Polices (with Gavin Kearney and Vina Kay). New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2001.

The Rights of Racial Minorities: The Basic ACLU Guide to Racial Minority Rights -Young People’s Version (With L. McDonald). American Civil Liberties Union, 1998.

The Rights of Racial Minorities: The Basic ACLU Guide to Racial Minority Rights, 2nd ed. (with L. McDonald). The American Civil Liberties Union, 1993.

Book Chapters

Conclusion (with Jason Reece). Where Credit is Due: Bringing Equity to Credit and Housing After the Market Meltdown. Eds. Christy Rogers and john powell. Landam, MD: University Press of America/Hamilton Books, 2011.

“Reinterpreting Metropolitan Space as a Strategy for Social Justice.” Breakthrough Communities: Sustainability and Justice in the Next American Metropolis. Ed. Paloma Pavel. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010.

“Structural Racism and Color Lines in the United States.” 21st Century Color Lines: Exploring the Frontiers of America’s Multicultural Present and Future (with Andrew Grant- Thomas). Eds. Andrew Grant-Thomas and Gary Orfield. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008.

“Why All Deliberate Speed?” The Promise of Justice: Essays on Brown v. Board of Education. Ed. Mac A. Stewart. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2008.

“Race, Poverty, and Urban Sprawl: Access to Opportunities through Regional Strategies.” Growing Smarter: Achieving Livable Communities, Environmental Justice and Regional Equity. Ed. Robert Bullard. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007.

“Structural Racism and Spatial Jim Crow.” The Black Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century: Race, Power, and the Politics of Place. Ed. Robert Bullard. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2007.

“Toward a Transformative View of Race: The Crisis and Opportunity of Katrina.” There is No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster: Race, Class, and Katrina. (With Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Daniel Newhart and Eric Stiens.) Eds. Gregory Squires and Chester Hartmann. New York: Routledge, 2006.

“A New Theory of Integrated Education: True Education.” School Resegregation: Must the South Turn Back? Eds. John Boger and Gary Orfield. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

Foreword. Talking the Walk: A Communication Guide for Racial Justice. Eds. Hunter Cunning and Makani Themba-Nixon. Oakland: AK Press, 2003.

“Toward the Livable City.” Opportunity-Based Housing. Ed. Emilie Buchwald. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2003.

“Sprawl, Fragmentation, and the Persistence of Racial Inequality: Limiting Civil Rights by Fragmenting Space.” Urban Sprawl: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Responses. Ed. Gregory Squires. Washington D.C.: Urban Institute Press, 2002.

“Urban Fragmentation as a Barrier to Equal Opportunity.”(With Kathleen Graham.) 2002 Report of the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights: Rights at Risk, Equality in an Age of Terrorism. 2002.

“Transformative Action: A Strategy for Ending Racial Hierarchy and Achieving True Democracy.” Beyond Racism: Race and Inequality in Brazil, South Africa and the United States. Eds. Charles Hamilton, Lynn Huntley, Neville Alexander, Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães, and Wilmot James. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001.

“Race, Poverty and Social Security.” Challenges to Equality: Poverty and Race in America. Ed. Chester Hartman. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2001.

“Addressing Regional Dilemmas for Minority Communities.” Reflections on Regionalism. Ed. Bruce Katz. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2000.

“Who Thought of Dropping Racial Categories and Why?” Double Exposure: Poverty & Race in America. Ed. Chester Hartman. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1997.

“The Debate on Multiculturalism.” Double Exposure: Poverty & Race in America. Ed. Chester Hartman. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1997.

“Are You Going To March?” Race: An Anthology in the First Person. Ed. Bart Schneider. New York: Crown Trade Paperbacks, 1997.

Introduction. Double Exposure: Poverty & Race in America. Ed. Chester Hartman. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1997.

“How Government Tax and Housing Policy Have Racially Segregated America.” Taxing America. Eds. Karen Brown and Mary Louise Fellows. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

“Worlds Apart: Reconciling Freedom of Speech and Equality.” The Price We Pay: The Case Against Racist Speech, Hate Propaganda, and Pornography. Eds. Laura Lederer and Richard Delgado. New York: Hill & Wang (a division of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), 1995.

Articles and Essays

Homeownership, Wealth, & the Production of Racialized Space (with Kaloma Cardwell). Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University. Forthcoming 2013.

Commentary on 2013 Black-White Equality Index-A Theory of Change. The State of Black America 2013: Redeem the Dream: Jobs Rebuild America (2013).

How Implicit Bias and Structural Racialization Can Move Us Toward Social and Personal Healing. Center on Community Philanthropy at Clinton School of Public Service, University of Arkansas, (2013).

Constitutional and the Extreme Poor: Neo-Dred Scott and the Contemporary “Discrete and Insular Minorities”. Drake Law Review 60 (2012): 1069.

“Beyond Public/Private: Understanding Excessive Corporate Prerogative” (with Stephen Menendian). Kentucky Law Journal 100. 2012.

“The Future of Fair Housing in a Diverse Suburbia” (with Jason Reece). Book chapter for edited volume to be released by the National Center for Suburban Studies. Temple University Press. 2012.

“Corporate Prerogative, Race, and Identity Under the Fourteenth Amendment” (with Caitlin Watt). Cardozo Law Review 32 (2011): 885.

“Beyond Public/Private: Understanding Corporate Power” (with Stephen Menendian). Poverty and Race 20, 6 (2011): 5.

“Implicit Bias Insights as Preconditions to Structural Change” (with Rachel Godsil). Poverty and Race 20, 5 (2011): 3.

“Rethinking Poverty in a Time of Crisis.” Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Roundtable 4 (2010).

“Remaking Law: Moving Beyond Enlightenment Jurisprudence.” Childress Memorial Lecture (with Stephen M. Menendian). Saint Louis University Law Journal 54 (2010): 1035.

“Tailoring Job Relief to America’s Diverse Communities.” The Washington Post, 10 March 2010.

Negotiating the New Political and Racial Environment (with Caitlin Watt). Journal of Law and Society 11 (2009).

“The Future of Fair Housing and Fair Credit: From Crisis to Opportunity”(with Jason Reece). Cleveland Marshall Law Review 57 (2009).

“The Importance of Targeted Universalism” (with Stephen M. Menendian and Jason Reece). Poverty & Race 18, No. 2 (2009).

“When Will Recovery Hit Black Neighborhoods?”, August 2009. “Will Economic Recovery Reach Black Neighborhoods?” The Grio, July 2009.

 “Post-racialism or Targeted Universalism?” Denver University Law Review 86 (2009): 785.

“Structural Racism and the Obama Presidency.” Pambazuka News – Weekly Forum for Social Justice in Africa, December 2008.

“The Impact of Societal Systems on Black Male Violence.” Journal of Aggression, Trauma and Maltreatment (Special Issue) 16 (2008): 311.

“Reflections on the Past, Looking to the Future: The Fair Housing Act at 40.” Indiana Law Review 41 (2008): 605.

“Structural Racism: Building Upon the Insights of John Calmore.” North Carolina Law Review 86 (2008): 791.

“The Race and Class Nexus: An Intersectional Perspective.” Law & Inequality 25 (2007): 355.

“Culture, Structures, and the Fate of U.S. Blacks.” (With Andrew Grant-Thomas.) Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 3 Nov. 2007: 11A.

“Using the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program to Connect Low-Income Children to High “Quality Schools.” Poverty and Race Jan./Feb. (2007).

“Toward a Structural Racism Framework.” (With Andrew Grant Thomas.) Poverty & Race. Nov./Dec.(2006).

“Tearing Down Structural Racism and Rebuilding Communities.” (With Maya Wiley.) Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law Clearinghouse Review May/June (2006).

“Moving Beyond the Isolated Self: The Political and Spiritual Project for the 21st Century.” TIDES Social Policy Magazine Spring 2005.

“Dreaming of a Self Beyond Whiteness and Isolation.” Washington University Journal of Law and Policy 18 (2005): 13.

“Needed: More Focus on Whiteness.” Poverty and Race Jan./Feb. (2005).

“The Needs of Members in a Legitimate Democratic State.” Santa Monica Law Review 44 (2004).

“Lessons From Suffering: How Social Justice Informs Spirituality.” University of St. Thomas Law Journal 1 (2003).

“Does Living a Spiritually Engaged Life Mandate Us to Be Actively Engaged in Issues of Social Justice?” University of St. Thomas Law Review 1 (2003).

“Brown is Not Brown and Educational Reform is Not Reform if Integration is Not a Goal.” (With Marguerite Spencer.) New York University Review of Law & Social Change 28 (2003).

“Giving Them the Old ‘One-Two’: Gentrification and the K.O. of Impoverished Urban Dwellers of Color.” (With Marguerite Spencer.) Howard Law Journal Spring (2003).

“Opportunity-Based Housing.” Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Development Law 2 Winter (2003).

“Fragmentation as a Primary Barrier to Civil Rights Enforcement.” (With Kathleen Graham.) Institute on Race and Poverty, 2002.

“Racism and Metropolitan Dynamics: The Civil Rights Challenge of the 21st Century.” Ford Foundation, 2002.

“A Minority-Majority Nation: Racing the Population in the Twenty-First Century.” Fordham Urban Law Journal 4 April (2002).

“Post-Durban Implications for the US Civil Rights Agenda.” Poverty and Race Research Action Council, 2002.

“The Tensions Between Integration and School Reform.” Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 28, Spring (2001).

“The New Racial Politics of Social Security.” Colorlines Magazine Fall (2000).

“Race, Poverty, & Globalization.” (With S.P. Udayakumar.) Poverty and Race May/June (2000).

“Whites Will Be Whites: The Failure to Interrogate Racial Privilege.” University of San Francisco Law Review 34 Spring (2000): 419.

“Achieving Racial Justice: What’s Sprawl Got to Do with It?” Poverty & Race Sept./Oct. (1999).

“What We Need to Do About the ‘Burbs’.” Colorlines Magazine Fall (1999). “Race and Space.” Poverty & Race 8 (1999).

“Race, Poverty and Urban Sprawl: Access to Opportunities Through Regional Strategies.” Forum for Social Economics Spring (1999).

“What Really Drives Metropolitan Growth.” Brookings Review Fall (1998).

“Remaking the Urban University for the Urban Student: Talking About Race.” (With Marguerite Spencer.) Connecticut Law Review 30 (1998): 1247.

“As Justice Requires/Permits: The Delimitation of Harmful Speech in a Democratic Society,” Law & Inequality Journal 16 (1997).

“The Colorblind Multiracial Dilemma: Racial Categories Reconsidered.” University of San Francisco Law Review 31 (1997): 789.

“The ‘Racing’ of American Society: Race Functioning as a Verb Before Signifying as a Noun.” Law & Inequality 15 (1997): 99.

“Reflections on the Self: Exploring Between and Beyond Modernity and Postmodernity.” Minnesota Law Review 81 (1997): 1481.

“Injecting a Race Component into Mount Laurel-Style Litigation.” Seton Hall Law Review 27 (1997): 1369.

“Race & Democracy in America.” Colors Fall (1996).

“Worlds Apart: Reconciling Freedom of Speech and Equality.” Kentucky Law Journal (1996): 9.

“Is Racial Integration Essential to Achieving Quality Education for Low-Income Minority Students, In the Short Term? In the Long Term?” Poverty and Race Sept.- Oct. (1996).

“Segregation and Educational Inadequacy in Twin Cities Public Schools.” Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy (1996): 337.

“Living and Learning: Linking Housing and Education.” Minnesota Law Review 80 (1996): 749.

“Black Immersion Schools.” New York University Review of Law and Social Change 21 (1995): 601.

“Blaming the Remedy.” Racefile May-June (1995).

“Constructing an Agenda for the Post-Civil Rights Era.” University of South Florida Law Review 29 (1995): 889.

“How the ‘War on Drugs’ Decimated Black America.” Colors July-Aug. (1995).

“Who Thought of Dropping Racial Categories, and Why?” Poverty & Race Jan.-Feb. (1995).

“Neighborhood Schools Mean Segregated Schools.” Star Tribune, 18 Dec. 1994.

“Who Really Can Claim Innocence?” Poverty & Race Nov.-Dec. (1994).

“Righting the Law: Seeking a Humane Voice.” West Virginia Law Review 96 (1994): 33.

“Talking Race.” Hungry Mind Review 31 (1994): 15.

“The Right to Die.” Issues in Law and Medicine 10 (1994): 169–182.

 “Symposium: Is Racism Permanent?” Poverty & Race Nov.-Dec. (1993).

“Race and Poverty: A New Focus for Legal Services.” Clearinghouse Review 27 (1993): 299.

“Rights Talk/Free Speech and Equality.” Annual Survey of American Law (1992/1993): 587.

“The Debate on Multiculturalism.” Poverty & Race July (1992).

“Comment: Racial Realism or Racial Despair?” Connecticut Law Review 24 (1992): 533.

“Racism and Multiculturalism: A Dilemma in a Post-Civil Rights Era.” Management Information Exchange Journal 5 (1991): 2.

“Hostage to the Drug War: The National Purse, the Constitution and the Black Community.” University of California (Davis) Law Review 24 (1991): 557.

“New Property Desegregated: A Model to Address Employment Discrimination.” University of San Francisco Law Review 24 (1990): 363.

Book Reviews

“The Housing Crisis: How Did We Get Here? Where Do We Go?” (with Jason Reece). Shelterforce. The Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Building, Fall/Winter 2009.

Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons, by Jane Lazarre; Displacing Whiteness: Essays in Social and Cultural Criticism, edited by Ruth Frankenberg (With Marguerite Spencer.) Signs, Journal of Women in Culture and Society (Winter 2000).

Reports and Other Publications

“Transforming the Face of Housing: The Dynamics of Race, Class, and Housing Opportunity”(with Christy Rogers). Making the Case for Housing Choices and Complete Communities: The Next Generation. The Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc. September 2007.

Regionalism: Projection of its Impact on Cleveland’s African American Community (with Robert Bullard, Angela Glover Blackwell and Deeohn Ferris). The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity for The Presidents’ Council of Cleveland. May 2007.

The Geography of Opportunity: Austin Region (with Jason Reece and Samir Gambhir). The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. March 2007.

Communities of Opportunity: A Framework for a more Equitable and Sustainable Future for All (with Samir Gambhir, Jason Reece and Christy Rogers). The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. January 2007.

Economic Segregation: Challenging Ohio’s Public Schools (with Rebecca Reno and Jason Reece). The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. November 2005.

A Minority Business Development Framework for the Cleveland Foundation. (With Julie Nielsen, Jason Reece, Roger Clay, Jr. and Tim Lohrentz.) The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity (Commissioned by the Cleveland Foundation). October 2005.

“You Have the Right.” Syndicated Column. (1989-1993).