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Civil Rights Lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill Chosen for 2022 Radcliffe Medal

The Radcliffe Medal is the highest award given out by Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
The Radcliffe Medal is the highest award given out by Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. By Soumyaa Mazumder
By Caroline E. Curran and Sara Dahiya, Crimson Staff Writers

Sherrilyn Ifill, an influential civil rights lawyer who leads the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, will receive the 2022 Radcliffe Medal, Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study announced last Friday.

Ifill, an author and law school professor, has headed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund since 2013.

The medal, the highest award given out by the Radcliffe Institute, honors an annual recipient who “embodies its commitment to excellence, inclusion, and social impact,” a press release announcing Ifill’s selection said. It was first awarded in 1987.

Previous recipients of the award include former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, author Toni Morrison, philanthropist Melinda F. Gates, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ifill will receive the award on Radcliffe Day, which is held during Harvard’s Commencement week in May.

As an NAACP lawyer, she has litigated voting rights cases and fought against education inequities and voter suppression. She first joined the NAACP in 1988, but left the organization to join the faculty at the University of Maryland Law School in Baltimore, where she taught constitutional law and civil procedure.

Ifill serves on a commission assembled by President Joe Biden last year that is tasked with examining reforms to the Supreme Court.

Ifill was previously recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.

This year, Radcliffe Day’s programming will focus on examining how to increase inclusivity in higher education.

“Sherrilyn embodies Radcliffe’s highest ideals,” Tomiko Brown-Nagin, the Radcliffe Institute’s dean, said in a press release. “She is an influential scholar and educator, and she is deeply engaged in the hard work of change making. As a nation, we owe a great deal to her pathbreaking leadership.”

—Staff writer Caroline E. Curran can be reached at

—Staff writer Sara Dahiya can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Sara_castically.

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