Bryan Stevenson to Share Stories at the Heart of 'Just Mercy'

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas students, area book club members and many others are in the process of reading Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, this year’s selection for the One Book, One Community program. The book has been assigned in several freshman classes as well as a number of upper level courses dealing with the American judicial and criminal justice systems.

Chancellor Joe Steinmetz recently endorsed Just Mercy in a video message to the campus and community, calling the book “thought-provoking and socially significant.”

Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer who has spent his career seeking justice for the people whom the legal system often fails: low income and minority defendants, the mentally ill and the wrongly condemned. Just Mercy is a memoir, centered on his Equal Justice Initiative based in Montgomery, Alabama. He tells the story of his own personal growth as he learns of the flaws in the legal system, while also telling the stories of the people who were his clients.

Stevenson will visit the U of A campus and deliver a free public lecture at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, in the Reynolds Center auditorium. He will also speak to a meeting of book clubs at the Fayetteville Public Library on Friday, Nov. 4.

The One Book, One Community committee is in the process of organizing several public events on the themes of justice and the death penalty, to supplement the discussion leading up to Stevenson’s lecture. The times and places of some of these events are still to be determined.

  • Local writers Jane Blunschi and Matt Henricksen and director Kathy McGregor will lead a discussion of the Northwest Arkansas Prison Story Project at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28 in Kimpel Hall room 306. They will describe how inmates at three different prisons have written extensively, providing materials for performances of Prison Story performances.  This year, the Prison Story Project has worked with ten inmates on Arkansas' death row.
  • Furonda Brasfield, director of the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, will give a presentation and answer questions about her organization's mission and initiatives at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, in Kimpel Hall room 306.
  • An Arkansas Law Review Symposium on the Future of the Death Penalty will be held all day Friday, Oct. 21, in the E.J. Ball Courtroom of the School of Law, beginning at 8:45 a.m.
  • Staged readings of The Prison Story Project: On the Row will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdayday, Oct. 26 in the Auditorium of Vol Walker Hall (Fay Jones School of Architecture) and at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28  in the Global Campus auditorium, 1 East Center, on the Fayetteville Square. Both performances are free and open to the public. The staged reading is based on the writing and stories of Arkansas death row inmates..

“The supporting events in the One Book, One Community program are an important part of the overall experience,” said Kevin Fitzpatrick, co-chair of the committee. “It is important to expand the discussion for the people who are reading Just Mercy, and connect with other people who are concerned about these issues. We hope this will encourage more people to read the book and that it will help deepen their understanding.”

The One Book, One Community committee looks for a book that is timely and relevant, but also one that has literary merit.

“Bryan Stevenson is a wonderful writer and storyteller,” said David Jolliffe, committee co-chair. “Just Mercy tackles important issues with clear, effective, forceful writing that tells compelling stories. It is accessible to anyone who enjoys a well written book that encourages them to think.”

The One Book, One Community program receives financial support from the Office of the Provost.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Kevin Fitzpatrick, co-chair
One Book, One Community

David Jolliffe, co-chair
One Book, One Community

Steve Voorhies, manager of media relations
University Relations


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