Morehouse College, the nation's only historically Black college or university dedicated to developing and educating men, will celebrate the classes of 2020 and 2021 with an in-person commencement on Sunday, May 16, 2021, at 9 a.m. on the Century Campus at Morehouse College. The ticketed event will incorporate reduced capacity, mask requirements, and social distancing in four-person family "pods" to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The ceremonies will also be live-streamed.
"The graduates we will honor at the 2021 Spring Commencement have demonstrated the resilience, dedication, creativity, and leadership which have long been the hallmarks of Morehouse Men," said David A. Thomas, Ph.D., Morehouse College president. "We welcome them back home if only to send them off into careers of courage and consequence, where they will use the light they take from Morehouse to illuminate solutions to our world's challenges."
In addition to the graduates, the event will honor Bryan A. Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), who will serve as commencement speaker and receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws. Stevenson is a public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, incarcerated, and condemned. His life work was profiled in the legal drama movie, "Just Mercy," starring Michael B. Jordan and Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults.
Stevenson's U.S. Supreme Court victories include rulings protecting condemned prisoners and banning mandatory life imprisonment without parole sentences for all children 17 or younger. Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief, or release from prison for over 135 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. He also led the creation of the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, both of which chronicle the legacy of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation and connections to mass incarceration and contemporary issues of racial bias. Stevenson's work has won him numerous awards, including over 40 honorary doctorates, the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Prize, and the ABA Medal, the American Bar Association's highest honor.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who created the "1619 Project," will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. The critically-acclaimed historical account has generated international news and helped to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.
Morehouse College will also present the Presidential Award of Distinction posthumously to the late Maurice Washington, former vice president of student affairs. As requested by the graduating classes, the College will pay an appropriate tribute to Washington, an incredibly consequential dean of students who served as a mentor to countless young men emerging into their full potential.
The traditional baccalaureate service will be held virtually at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 15, 2021. The speaker will be Rev. Dr. Delman Coates, a 1995 graduate of Morehouse and senior pastor of the 9,000-member Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md. Named one of The Root's 100 African American Achievers and Influencers, Coates is also the founder and president of the Black Church Center for Justice and Equality.
For a complete list of events, speakers, honorees, performers, and logistical details, or to access the live stream, visit https://www.morehouse.edu/about/commencement/.