The University of Wisconsin Law School has named Bernadette Atuahene as the inaugural James E. Jones Chair. The endowed faculty chair honors the late Professor James E. Jones Jr. '56, who was a trailblazing labor lawyer, civil rights activist, prolific scholar, and committed professor. In 1969, he became the Law School's first African American faculty member and, in 1973, founded UW Law's William H. Hastie Teaching Fellowship, an LL.M. degree program that prepares lawyers from historically underrepresented groups for tenure-track faculty positions. The James E. Jones Chair is UW-Madison's first fully funded chair named for an African American faculty member.
Atuahene is a property law scholar focusing on land stolen from people in the African Diaspora. She is the daughter of Ghanaian immigrants who grew up in Los Angeles, California. She earned her B.A. from the University of California Los Angeles, majoring in political science and African American studies. She then earned her J.D. from Yale Law School, and her MPA from Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She served as a judicial clerk at the Constitutional Court of South Africa, working for Justices Tholie Madala and Sandile Ngcobo, and practiced as an associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York. Atuahene has worked as a consultant for the World Bank and the South African Land Claims Commission. Prior to joining UW Law, she was a law professor at IIT, Chicago-Kent College of Law, and a research professor at the American Bar Foundation. Atuahene's teaching areas include property, trusts and estates, property and race, law and international development, and international business transactions.
As a law and society scholar, Atuahene said joining UW Law's faculty is "an absolute honor given its rich history and remarkable reputation in this area."
"I am also honored to occupy the University of Wisconsin's first fully-funded chair to honor an African American faculty member, James E. Jones," she said. "The generously endowed chair will allow me to take my law in action work to the next level, continuing the legacy of Professor Jones."
Atuahene has been the recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship, Council on Foreign Relation's International Affairs Fellowship, and Princeton's Law and Public Affairs Fellowship. She is the author of We Want What's Ours: Learning from South Africa's Land Restitution Program (Oxford University Press, 2014), which is based on interviews she conducted with South Africans dispossessed of their land by the colonial and apartheid governments and who received some form of compensation post-Apartheid. She also directed and produced an award-winning short documentary film about one South African family's struggle to regain their land.
Her articles appear in prominent law reviews such as the Southern California Law Review (2018), Northwestern University Law Review (2018), California Law Review (2020), and New York University Law Review (2023). Additionally, she publishes extensively in notable popular media outlets such as The New York Times, L.A. Times, Detroit News, and Detroit Free Press.
Atuahene was also the recipient of a National Science Foundation award for her current project about racialized property tax administration in Detroit, which has received several accolades, including the Law and Society Association's John Hope Franklin Award for best paper on race in 2020.
"To conduct my ethnographic research, I must live in the place I study," said Atuahene. "There are very few law schools that understand the sacrifices required for ethnographic work, and thus cringe at the idea of a faculty member living in another city for part of the year. But UW Law School is no stranger to ethnography, and so saw my appointment as an opportunity to bring their students into the impactful work I am currently doing in Detroit. They get it, so they got me."
Atuahene, who will be based in Madison and continuing to conduct research in Detroit, Michigan, for part of the year, will begin teaching this fall.
"We're delighted that Professor Atuahene has accepted our offer to serve as our very first Jones Chair," said UW Law School Dean Dan Tokaji. "Professor Jones was a towering figure at the Law School, whose career was devoted to making the promise of equal justice under law a reality. We are honored to keep his memory and legacy alive through the Jones Chair, and grateful to his former students and others whose generosity made this possible. Professor Atuahene's visionary research, teaching, and service make her the ideal person to hold the Jones Chair."
Submitted by Law School News on May 24, 2022
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