Amanda Alexander, founding executive director of the Detroit Justice Center, is a racial justice lawyer and historian who works alongside community-based movements to end mass incarceration and build thriving and inclusive cities. She is co-host of Freedom Dreams, an interview podcast that amplifies movement voices and explores the many paths to building a truly just future. Originally from Michigan, Amanda has worked at the intersection of racial justice and community development in Detroit, New York, and South Africa for more than two decades.
Amanda is a Senior Research Scholar at University of Michigan Law School, where she has taught Law & Social Movements and was an attorney in the Child Advocacy Law Clinic. She was a 2015 – 2018 member of the Michigan Society of Fellows with appointments in Law and Afro-American & African Studies. As a Soros Justice Fellow, Amanda launched the Prison & Family Justice Project at Michigan Law School to provide legal representation to incarcerated parents and advocate for families divided by the prison and foster care systems. Amanda facilitated the Inside-Out Theory Group at Macomb Prison near Detroit for many years, and drove a successful effort to establish an Inside-Out Prison Exchange program at UM-Ann Arbor and local prisons.
Amanda has served on the national steering committee of Law for Black Lives and is a board member of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. Amanda regularly assists and trains community organizations, advocates, and public agencies working to promote successful re-entry, community safety, and economic equity. Amanda served on the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to develop ambitious and innovative strategies to reduce Michigan’s jail population.
Amanda’s advocacy and research have won the support of an Echoing Green Fellowship, Law for Black Lives/Movement Law Lab Legal Innovator Fellowship, Social Science Research Council Fellowship, Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellowship, and other fellowships and grants. Her work has been honored with the NAACP- Detroit’s Great Expectations Award, Stanford Law School’s National Public Interest Award, and the Caribbean Philosophical Association’s Frantz Fanon Award for Outstanding Activism, Scholarship, and Public Intellectual Work.
Amanda received her JD from Yale Law School, her PhD in international history from Columbia University, and her BA from Harvard College. Previously she has worked with the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, the Bronx Defenders, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the Centre for Civil Society in Durban, South Africa. As a Fulbright-Hays Scholar, Amanda conducted research on land, housing, and inclusive cities in South Africa. Her writing has been published in Boston Review, The Globe & Mail, Detroit Free Press, Boston Globe, Michigan Journal of Race & Law,Harvard Journal of African-American Public Policy, Howard Human & Civil Rights Law Review, Michigan Child Welfare Law Journal, Review of African Political Economy, and other publications.