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University Relations

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July 2, 2008
Contact: Mindie Paget, School of Law, (785) 864-9205.

Law professor receives $50,000 award for work on race relations project

Stacy Leeds

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas law professor has joined a distinguished handful of scholars, writers and artists who have been named Fletcher Fellows.

Stacy L. Leeds, professor of law and director of KU’s Tribal Law and Government Center, is among four academics in the country to receive the honor this year. The award comes with a $50,000 stipend for work that contributes to improving racial equality in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Leeds will produce a book called “Ties that Bind: Freedmen Citizenship and the Cherokee Nation,” which will provide a comprehensive history of the Cherokee freedmen, the African American slaves held by the Cherokee Nation until the 1860s, and their descendants.

While a justice on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, Leeds authored the majority opinion in Allen v. Cherokee Nation, a judicial decision that upheld the tribal citizenship rights of the “freedmen” and is considered a decision parallel to Brown v. Board. Leeds will focus on the unique role of the Cherokee nation within the United States with respect to issues of tribal citizenship rights and as a model of the larger issue of race relations and identity in the United States.

“Receiving the fellowship is a tremendous honor, and I am humbled by the generosity of the Fletcher Foundation,” Leeds said. “The fellowship will support research and scholarship on tribal sovereignty and the unique legal history of freedmen citizenship within the Cherokee Nation.”

The Fletcher Fellowship program, a charitable initiative created in 2004 and named for Alphonse Fletcher Sr., commemorates the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board. This year’s selection committee chose the four recipients from a pool of more than 80 applicants.

The other 2008 Fletcher Fellows are:

— Clayborne Carson, history professor at Stanford University and founding director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute
— Kellie Jones, associate professor of art history and archaeology at Columbia University
— Kimberlé Crenshaw, law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles and Columbia University law schools

“The Fletcher Fellowship Program continues to fund varied and complex work on both the history and present-day state of race relations in this country,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and chair of the fellowship selection committee. “Whether writing about the law, arts and culture, education, or citizenship itself, this year’s fellows will help us to see how far we have come and how far we still have to go in our efforts to meet the challenge of Brown v. Board.”

Leeds joined the KU law faculty in 2003 after serving as assistant professor and director of the Northern Plains Indian Law Center at the University of North Dakota School of Law. Her law teaching career began at the University of Wisconsin School of Law, where she received her LL.M. as a William H. Hastie Fellow. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and her law degree from the University of Tulsa.

In 2006, Leeds was the recipient of the Association of American Law Schools Clyde Ferguson Award for Excellence in Teaching, Service and Scholarship, a national award to honor outstanding law professors. She also has received KU’s Immel Award for Teaching Excellence and has been recognized as the Alumni of the Year from the National Native American Law Students Association.

Leeds is chair of the American Bar Association’s Judicial Division’s Tribal Courts Council and a member of the Advisory Board for the National Judicial College’s Tribal Judicial Center. She is a former justice on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, the only woman and youngest person ever to serve in that capacity. She currently serves as chief judge of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation District Court, chief justice of the Supreme Court for the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma and associate justice on the Kaw Nation Supreme Court.


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