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Civil rights scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw to receive Winslow Medal

January 25, 2023
by Fran Fried

Prominent law professor and civil rights scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, whose work has been foundational in two fields of study she coined and developed – critical race theory and intersectionality – is the latest recipient of the C.-E. A. Winslow Medal, the Yale School of Public Health’s highest honor.

Crenshaw will be presented with her award in a ceremony at noon on Friday, February 3, at Harkness Auditorium, 333 Cedar St. She will also take part in a discussion moderated by Daniel HoSang, professor of Ethnicity, Race, & Migration and American Studies in Yale University’s American Studies Department.

The ceremony and discussion will be open to the Yale community. In-person attendance is encouraged. In anticipation of a high turn-out, registration for in-person attendance is required. Please note that your tickets will be required for entry (from phone is acceptable). The event can also be viewed live via Zoom, and will be recorded. (Registration and Zoom info to come)

It is because of her groundbreaking work on intersectionality – the ways in which systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class, and other forms of discrimination “intersect” to create unique dynamics and effects – that she is receiving the Winslow Medal. Crenshaw coined the term in a 1989 paper she wrote for the University of Chicago Legal Forum as a way to help explain the oppression of African American women.

“One of the major areas of focus at YSPH is conducting research to achieve health equity and justice for all and, more specifically, designing, implementing, evaluating, and promoting evidence-based public health programs, systems, and policies that redress health inequities,” said Winslow Medal Committee Chair Melinda Irwin, Associate Dean of Research and Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases). “Dr. Crenshaw is an internationally recognized leader in this field, and we are delighted that she is this year’s recipient of YSPH’s highest honor – the Winslow Medal.”

“Professor Crenshaw was chosen for this award because her work exemplifies C.-E. A. Winslow's ideals, including concern for the social factors affecting health and outstanding achievement in public health leadership, scholarship, and contributions to society,” Interim YSPH Dean Melinda Pettigrew said.

A sought-after speaker and conductor of workshops and training, Crenshaw divides her time between Columbia Law School, where she is the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, co-founder and executive director of the African American Policy Forum, and founder and director of the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies (CISPS); and UCLA Law School, where she is a distinguished professor of law and Promise Institute Chair in Human Rights.

She is the founding coordinator of the Critical Race Theory Workshop, which she launched in 1989, and the co-editor of the volume Critical Race Theory: Key Documents That Shaped the Movement (1996), and she authored the background paper on race and gender discrimination for the United Nations World Conference on Racism in 2001.

Crenshaw is a leading voice in calling for a gender-inclusive approach to racial-justice interventions, having spearheaded the Why We Can’t Wait campaign, co-authored the 2015 report Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected, and co-authored the 2016 book Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women, which documents and draws attention to the killing of Black women and girls by police.

Trace Kershaw, chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Public Health (Social & Behavioral Sciences), nominated Crenshaw for the medal.

“Kimberlé Crenshaw has had a profound and important impact on the field of public health,” he said. “Intersectionality has become a dominant way to understand the impact of racism and stigma on the health and well-being of marginalized identities. Further, the application of critical race theory to both public health research and education has been central to public health’s ability to implement equitable and just public health solutions.

“YSPH is ecstatic to have such a brilliant individual who has challenged public health to think about how the larger structures and systems, outside and inside public health, perpetuate injustices and inequities,” Kershaw said.

The C.-E. A. Winslow Medal, created in 1999, is named in honor of Dr. Charles-Edward Amory Winslow, a seminal figure in the public health field, who founded what was then known as the Yale Department of Public Health in 1915 and served as its director for 30 years. Winslow defined public health as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health …” His definition, even today, is considered by many as embodying and guiding public health research, practice and education.

Past recipients of the Winslow Medal include Sir Richard Doll, Dr. Judith Rodin, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and last year’s recipient, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Director Linda Birnbaum, professor adjunct of epidemiology (environmental health sciences) at YSPH.

Submitted by Fran Fried on January 26, 2023