Cheryl I. Harris

Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Professor in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

  • B.A. Wellesley, 1973
  • J.D. Northwestern, 1978
  • UCLA Faculty Since 1998

Cheryl I. Harris is the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. She teaches Constitutional LawCivil RightsEmployment DiscriminationCritical Race Theory, and Race Conscious Remedies. Author of the acclaimed "Whiteness as Property" (Harvard Law Review), Harris is a leading scholar in Critical Race Theory and is recognized for her foundational contributions to the field.

A graduate of Wellesley College and Northwestern School of Law, Harris began her career as an appellate and trial litigator at leading criminal defense firms in Chicago. As part of her pro bono work, she contributed to major civil and human rights projects, including the police oversight measures and the development of anti-apartheid sanctions legislation. Following the historic election of Harold Washington as Chicago's first Black mayor, Harris became a senior legal advisor in the City's Office of Legal Counsel, where she helped craft major reform initiatives designed to improve government accountability, transparency, and racial equity.

Harris began teaching law in 1990 at Chicago-Kent College of Law. In 1991, she was a key organizer of conferences between U.S. legal scholars and South African lawyers during the development of South Africa's first democratic constitution, ratified in 1994. Since then, she has been a part of human rights delegations in several conflict zones included Northern Ireland and Haiti and participated in convenings on race, inequality, and human rights across the globe.

In 1998, Harris joined the faculty at UCLA School of Law. She was a founding member of the law school's Critical Race Studies Program and has served as its faculty director several times. She holds a joint appointment with UCLA's Department of African American Studies and served as the department's Chair from 2014-2016 in its early formation years.

Harris' scholarship critically examines the relationship between law and racial power across several areas, including anti-discrimination law, property relations, and, more recently, conceptions of debt. Her work has appeared in leading law journals, including Harvard Law Review, California Law Review, and UCLA Law Review. Her engagement with civil rights history, Black political thought, and critical theory has led to publications in influential interdisciplinary journals and collections.

In 2019, Harris was a visiting scholar at RMIT University in Melbourne, building on her research on race and indigeneity. She has been a fellow at Princeton's Law and Public Affairs Program and was selected to be a writer in residence at Hedgebrook in 2019. She has lectured widely at universities and conferences in the US, England, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Harris has served in the leadership of the American Studies Association, as a board member of the ACLU of Southern California, and as a member of the Selection Committee for Research and Writing Grants, MacArthur Foundation, Program in Peace and International Cooperation. In 2021, she was appointed to the City of Los Angeles Reparations Advisory Commission.

Harris has been widely recognized as a groundbreaking teacher, receiving the ACLU Foundation of Southern California's Distinguished Professor Award for Civil Rights Education in 2005 and the Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2018. In 2022, she was awarded UCLA's Distinguished Teaching Award. She became the Law School's first Vice-Dean of Community, Equality, and Justice in 2021.

Her current projects include an initiative responding to the attacks on Critical Race Theory, for which she was the principal investigator on a major grant and the revision of the landmark textbook Race, Racism and American Law by Derrick Bell.


  • Articles And Chapters
    • Intersectionality at 30: Mapping the Margins of Anti-Essentialism, Intersectionality, and Dominance Theory (with Devon Carbado), 132 Harvard Law Review 2193 (2019). Full Text
    • Back to the Future: Recentering the Political Outsider, 118 Columbia Law Review Online 153 (2018). Full Text
    • Fisher's Foibles: From Race and Class to Class Not Race, 64 UCLA Law Review Discourse 648 (2017). Full Text
    • Ricci v. Destefano: Lost at the Intersection, 91 Denver University Law Review 1121 (2015). Full Text
    • Limiting Equality: The Divergence and Convergence of Title VII and Equal Protection, 2014 University of Chicago Legal Forum 95 (2014).
    • Undocumented Criminal Procedure (with Devon Carbado), 58 UCLA Law Review 1543-1616 (2011). Full Text
    • Reading Ricci: Whitening Discrimination, Racing Test Fairness (with Kimberly West-Faulcon), 58 UCLA Law Review 73-165 (2010). Full Text
    • The New Racial Preferences (with Devon Carbado), California Law Review 1139-1214 (2008). Full Text
    • 'Too Pure an Air:' Somerset's Legacy from Anti-slavery to Colorblindness, 13 Texas Wesleyan Law Review 439-58 (2007).
    • Whitewashing Race: Scapegoating Culture, 94 California Law Review 907-943 (2006). Reviewing Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society, by Michael K. Brown.
    • In the Shadow of Plessy, 7 Journal of Constitutional Law 867 (2005).
    • The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson: The Death and Resurrection of Racial Formalism, in Constitutional Law Stories, (edited by Michael Dorff, Foundation Press, 2004).
    • Book Review, Mining in Hard Ground, 116 Harvard Law Review 2487-2539 (2003). Reviewing The Miner’s Canary, by Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres.
    • What the Supreme Court did not Hear in Grutter and Gratz, 51 Drake Law Review 697-713 (2003).
    • Critical Race Studies: An Introduction, 49 UCLA Law Review 1215-39 (2002).
    • Equal Treatment and the Reproduction of Inequality, 69 Fordham Law Review 1753-83 (2001).
    • Re-Imagining Community, 47 UCLA Law Review 1839-42 (2000).
    • Sojourner Truth, in Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, 2nd ed. (edited by Leonard W. Levy, Kenneth L. Karst et al., Macmillan, 2000).
    • On Visual Oral History: Meditations on Kerry James Marshall's "Mementos", The Renaissance Society (1999).
    • Finding Sojourner's Truth: Race, Gender and the Institution of Slavery, 18 Cardozo Law Journal 309-409 (1997).
    • Myths of Race and Gender in the Trials of O.J. Simpson and Susan Smith–Spectacles of Our Times, 35 Washburn Law Journal 225-53 (1996).
    • Whiteness as Property, 106 Harvard Law Review 1709-91 (1993). Edited version reprinted in Critical Race Theory: Key Writings That Formed a Movement (edited by Crenshaw, Gotanda, et al., New Press, 1997). Full Text
    • Law Professors of Color and the Academy, 68 Chicago-Kent Law Review 331 (1992). Reprinted in Critical Race Feminism (edited by A. Wing, NYU Press, 1997).
  • Other
    • Look Before You Leap (with Walter R. Allen), National Law Journal (Oct. 22, 2007).
    • A Roundtable Discussion with Paul Brest, Cheryl I. Harris, Kirk O. Kolbo, Dennis J. Shields & Shelli D. Soto (with Paul Brest, Kirk O. Kolbo, Deniss J. Shields, and Shelli D. Soto), 51 Drake Law Review 761-74 (2003).
    • Closing Remarks: Reimagining Community, 47 UCLA Law Review 1839-42 (2000).
    • Book Review, Bell’s Blues, 60 University of Chicago Law Review 783-93 (1993). Reviewing Faces at the Bottom of the Well, by Derrick Bell.
    • African Americans and the Right to Self-Determination: The Duties Associated with the Right to Self-Determination, 17 Hamline Law Review 60 (1993).
    • Impact of the End of the Cold War on Africa, 48 The Guild Practitioner (1991).