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Inaugural Opening of the Academic Year Alumni Lecture reckons with reparations

Mon 14 November 2022

Opening of the Academic Year Alumni Lecture

Edinburgh Law School’s inaugural Opening of the Academic Year Alumni Lecture took place on Friday, 16 September 2022 with a lecture from Professor Eric J. Miller, Leo J. O’Brien Fellow at Loyola Law School (LLB, 1991) and a response from Professor Lesley McAra, Chair of Penology at Edinburgh Law School (MA Politics, 1981). It was chaired by Jacquelyn MacLennan (LLB, 1983), a Partner at White & Case and the Alumni Co-Chair of the Edinburgh Law School Advancement Committee. 

Reckoning with reparations

Reparations has become a major means of demanding redress, advanced by different groups identified by race, nationality, and even sexual orientation. There are a variety of different ways of understanding the nature of reparations, and the political movements that use reparations to advance their objective.

In his lecture, Professor Miller recounted how and why someone born and raised in Glasgow, and learning law at Edinburgh Law School, became one of the foremost reparations litigators in the United States, representing the Black victims of a 100 year-old race massacre before US state and federal courts and in the United States Congress.

Prof Miller explained why reparations is such a powerful idea both globally but also nationally and locally, and why it resonates here in Scotland.

The lecture was followed by a response from Professor McAra, based on her work on the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime and as director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh.

Listen to the lecture


00:00 - 07:23: Introduction by Jacquelyn MacLennan  

07:23 - 39:59: Reckoning with Reparations by Prof Eric Miller

40:00 - 41:10: Comments by Jacquelyn MacLennan

41:11 - 51:20: Response by Prof Lesley McAra

51:21 - 54:33: Concluding Remarks by Jacquelyn MacLennan

About the speakers

Professor Eric J. Miller (LLB, 1991)

Eric J. Miller is a professor and Leo J. O’Brien Fellow at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, where he teaches and writes in the areas of legal theory, reparations, and policing. 

Professor Miller is an internationally recognised expert on reparations for Black people in the United States.  He has testified before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Continuing Injustice: The Centennial of the Tulsa-Greenwood Race Massacre in 2021; on HR40 and the Path to Restorative Justice in 2019; and on the Legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Americain 2007. In addition, he has provided testimony before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Reparation for Slavery and Other Forms of Structural Racial Discrimination in the United States, Washington, D.C., September 24, 2019.

Professor Miller was a member of the Reparations Coordinating Committee, and took a leading role in drafting the complaint in the pathbreaking federal reparations lawsuit on behalf of the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, Alexander v. State of Oklahoma.

He is currently a member of Lawyers for Justice for Greenwood, and again took a lead role in drafting and arguing a reparations public nuisance lawsuit, Randle v. City of Tulsa.

Professor Miller received an LL.B. from the University of Edinburgh, and an LL.M. from Harvard Law School, where he was also a Charles Hamilton Houston Fellow.  He clerked for the Hon. Myron H. Thompson in the Middle District of Alabama and the Hon. Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Professor Lesley McAra (MA Politics, 1981)

Lesley McAra is an alumna of the University of Edinburgh and of the Open University. She began her career as a researcher in the Scottish Office where she led a major programme of research evaluating social work criminal justice services. In 1995, she joined the University of Edinburgh as Lecturer in Criminology, was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2005, and to the Chair of Penology in 2009.

Lesley is currently the Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities (IASH). She is also the Assistant Principal Community Relations where she is academic lead for the local impact component of University of Edinburgh strategy. Lesley is a former Dean of the School of Law, the first woman to be appointed to that post. In 2014 she founded (with alumna, Karina McTeague) the Leadership Foundation for Women in the Legal Profession. 

Jacquelyn MacLennan (LLB, 1983)

Jacquelyn MacLennan is a Partner at White & Case and the Alumni Co-Chair of the Edinburgh Law School Advancement Committee.