“I will not, I must not, I cannot, forget their stories”: Markeisha Miner speaks on underrepresented lawyers


Cornell Law School Dean of Students, Markeisha Miner, presents on the contributions of underrepresented and marginalized lawyers. Photo by Thomas Lemoine

Jessica Lilly, News Reporter

Dean of Students at Cornell Law School, Markeisha Miner, visited Whitman campus on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

The result of a collaboration between the Intercultural Center programming for Black History Month, the Student Engagement Center and Whitman’s pre-law advising initiative, Miner’s visit gave students insight into practicing law. While on campus, Miner offered students law school application advice and gave an afternoon lecture highlighting underrepresented lawyers and their legacy of leadership.

Miner earned a Juris Doctor (JD) degree, which is a professional degree in law, from the University of Michigan Law school. She previously served as an assistant dean of career services and outreach at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, and practiced as a commercial litigator in Dickinson Wright PLLC’s Detroit office.

Junior Jordon Crawford introduced Miner’s lecture by highlighting the significance of her visit.

“The contributions of underrepresented lawyers should not go unnoticed,” Crawford said. “For many marginalized students who have hopes of studying and practicing law the stories and achievements of lawyers such as Dean Miner serve as an inspiration… to push through forging spaces for our grievances to be heard and for change to be fettered.”

Miner began her campus visit with a lunch conversation session on applying to law school, where she talked students through the law application process, explained admissions considerations and answered student questions about law school applications and experiences.

Julien Comardelle, an active member of Whitman’s pre-law society, shared thoughts on the sit-down discussion with Miner.

Dean Miner’s sharing of her education and career development gave insight to the idea that legal education does not equal working in law,” Comardelle said. “Someone can gain valuable skills and connections through law school which can aid them along any career path.”

During the lunch conversation, Miner offered some advice to students unsure of their college trajectory.

“Follow your passion … pursue work that challenges you wherever that might be,” Miner said.

In her afternoon lecture, “Lest We Forget: Lawyers Legacy and Leadership,” Miner shared how pursuing her own passion led to her path through her undergraduate degree and law school.

“My passion I realized was studying the history of underrepresented people, especially African American, especially women,” Miner said.

Working at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History while home from college for the summer, Miner explained how she came across the title “Lest We Forget: The Passage from Africa to Slavery and Emancipation.” The book compiled pictures and documents about African American history before slavery and provided the inspiration for Miner’s afternoon talk.

“It reminded me that I’m a descendant of a people who demonstrated extraordinary resilience and fortitude and found ways to preserve their history and culture, their passions, in the midst of a system designed to tear all of that away,” Miner said, “so I will not, I must not, I cannot, forget their stories … Let me highlight some of those individuals whose paths and stories I admire.”

Sharing the stories and works of five social-justice focused lawyers, Miner recognized  Mary Ann Shadd Cary and George Washington Fields for their determination, Judge Anna Johnston Diggs Taylor for her preparation and Charles Hamilton Houston and Judge Damon Keith for their focus.

“I hope that you too will be inspired by their stories, by their legacy of leadership,” Miner said.

Miner closed her lecture with some advice for the audience.

“When I think about who will continue to build on the legacies of those I’ve talked about to day I think of you, yes all of you,” Miner said. “You too, will have a meaningful life and career of consequence. So if you wonder how you can make a difference, how you can be a social justice warrior while working within a story that sometimes imposes very strict systems of rules and order, I hope that you will recall these individuals that I’ve mentioned today and their work;  help me keep their stories alive, lest we forget the impact that they’ve had and that you can have too.”

“Remember, reflect, recommit to doing the work about which you are passionate,” she added.