History, News

A homework assignment

Loyola University of Chicago is requiring incoming freshman to read the book “Just Mercy,” an award-winning book that discusses the author Bryan Stevenson’s efforts to defend the poor

Bryan Stevenson said nearly 4,000 African Americans have been lynched
Bryan Stevenson’s book “Just Mercy” is required reading for incoming freshman at Loyola University of Chicago

By Frederick H. Lowe

Loyola University of Chicago’s incoming freshman are required to read as a homework assignment the book “Just Mercy,” a memoir by Bryan Stevenson, an attorney who is founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery, Ala.-based nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners.

Just Mercy,” which discusses Stevenson’s work, is Loyola University of Chicago’s first-year text, which students must read before the fall semester begins on Aug. 22 except for Saturday classes, which begin Aug. 20

“With its themes of race, inequality and justice, “Just Mercy” aligns with Loyola’s mission and beliefs. And it will help connect incoming students with the Loyola experiences,” said Bridget Wesley, director of the Loyola’s office of Student Transitions and Outreach. “We have to make efforts to know the realities of others. If we choose to ignore that then we are complicit in their struggles. We need to know what others experience in order to bring about change.”


The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated and the condemned–Bryan Stevenson


Stevenson will speak at the New Student Convocation in August as part of a kickoff to student discussions about his book, which has won multiple awards, including the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction.

Just Mercy

In 2011, Loyola awarded Stevenson a honorary doctorate. That year, he also spoke at the Stritch School of Medicine commencement ceremony.

Research on lynchings

In 2015, the Equal Justice Initiative reported that nearly 4,000 blacks were lynched in 12 Southern states between 1877 and 1950.

On July 30, as part of the EJI’s Remembrance Project to recognize the lynching victims, community members are invited to join EJI’s staff to collect soil from sites where lynchings occurred throughout Alabama.

Students and faculty interested in obtaining a copy of “Just Mercy” should contact the office of Student Transitions and Outreach.



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