From its founding in 1997, UEAALDF saw that the U of M affirmative action cases represented a potential springboard for a new civil rights movement that could put a halt to the decades-long erosion that has taken place in the gains of the last civil rights movement.

UEAALDF also realized that to achieve victory, the new civil rights movement would have to be shaped by the boldness and idealism of youth.

In the Courtroom

Our legal work is always fully integrated with education and organizing. Court hearings provide an opportunity to educate the nation and to set the terms of public debate on civil rights issues.

For instance, UEAALDF presented the most aggressive, comprehensive and in-depth case for affirmative action ever presented in the U.S. We moved the discussion on affirmative action from one about “racial preferences” to one about equality and opportunity – from the arguments in Bakke to those of Brown. Many of America’s pre-eminent experts in their fields testified pro bono for the Grutter intervenors, including Harvard Professor Gary Orfield, Columbia Professor Eric Foner, Duke Professor John Hope Franklin, Howard Professor Frank Wu, UC Berkeley Professor Eugene Garcia and UCLA Professor Walter Allen.

In the Classroom

To educate students, UEAALDF has sponsored annual educational symposia at the University of Michigan, the University of California, Berkeley on all the issues surrounding the affirmative action debate. Its organizers have spoken at colleges across the country. In addition, UEAALDF representatives have made presentations to unions, professional organizations and other civil rights organizations.

UEAALDF has also made hundreds of presentations to classrooms of high school students in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Cincinnati, Oakland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington DC about affirmative action and integration, to educate high school students about the issues and motivate them to become involved.

In the Streets

UEAALDF, in partnership with BAMN and other organizations, sponsors rallies and marches on the occasion of every hearing of every lawsuit we are involved in, every Martin Luther King Day and on National Days of Action involving campuses across the country. It has also launched multiple petition campaigns to support the aims of its legal work. 8,000 petition signatures were collected at the University of Michigan when the administration reduced the numbers of minority students admitted after affirmative action was banned by the Hopwood decision – and minority admissions increased the following year. It also collected 50,000 signatures on a nation-wide petition in support of affirmative action during the course of the Grutter litigation. Petitions are an important tool to educate and mobilize the public and to demonstrate the broad support that exists for civil rights.

When District Court Judge Bernard Friedman announced his decision to ban the U of M Law School from using affirmative action in the spring of 2001, UEAALDF mobilized over 2000 students in less than two days to attend a protest rally featuring keynote speaker Reverend Jesse Jackson.

Thousands March for Affirmative Action in Cincinnati

On the day of the hearing at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, UEAALDF mobilized 5000 people, including 120 Detroit public high school students (who were hosted by veteran civil rights activist Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth) and hundreds of Cincinnati high school students to march in defense of affirmative action, despite final exams, driving rain and freezing temperatures. UEAALDF succeeded in arousing so much interest in the affirmative action cases that for the first time in history, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals opened an overflow room to accommodate additional observers.

50,000 March on Washington on April 1st, 2003

On the day that the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Grutter and Gratz cases, UEAALDF helped mobilize 50,000 high school and college students to Washington DC from almost every state in the nation to demonstrate their support for affirmative action and equality. It was one of the most racially integrated, and youthful marches in our nation’s history, and signaled a new era in a reinvigorated fight for civil rights.

Forging Alliances

  Judge Mathis, Rev. Jackson, and UEAA National Director Shanta Driver - National Civil Rights Summit & Conference, 1/2003

At every juncture, UEAALDF has forged alliances with established civil rights and labor organizations that share our goals. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition has been our consistent partner in sponsoring rallies and educational events. At UEAALDF’s National Civil Rights Summit and Conference which took place at the University of Michigan on January 20-26, 2003, speakers included Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congressman John Conyers, the Honorable Mary Frances Berry, Judge Greg Mathis, NOW Vice President Terry O’Neill, LULUC President Hector Flores, HERE (Hotel and Restaurant workers union) International Vice President Ron Richardson, and Michigan AFLCIO President Mark Gaffney, as well as many of the most pre-eminent scholars in the United States in the fields of sociology, political science, Afro-American Studies, Women Studies, history, education and law.

As part of their campaign to secure a victory for integration and equality of opportunity, the student intervenor-defendants in Grutter have built a dynamic, new, youth-led civil rights movement that includes a network of politically active students at high schools and college campuses across the country. The rallies, marches and educational events sponsored by the students were key to securing a victory for affirmative action at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, because they helped put a face on those who would be victimized by the overturn of affirmative action, and reminded the judges that the vast majority of Americans support equality, integration and social progress.

The April 1st Civil Rights March on Washington expressed the determination of a new generation to resist America’s slide toward resegregation and imprinted the image of 50,000 people marching for justice and equal opportunity on the minds of the Supreme Court Justices as they made their decision on the case in the months following the hearing.