Episode 9 – The Pipeline to Social Justice: From the Classroom to the Courtroom



It’s Women’s History Month! For the last day of this momentous celebration, Jonathan Rapping and Ilham Askia sat down with Associate Professor of Sociology at Spelman College and the Director of UNCF/Mellon Programs, Dr. Cynthia Spence to discuss the intersection of race and gender within the social justice movement, the social justice movement within HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and how to get students involved in public interest law. Make sure you’re tuned in for this incredible episode!





Dr. Cynthia Neal Spence is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Spelman College and Director of the UNCF/Mellon Programs. Her teaching and research interests in the areas of sociology, criminology, law and social justice and violence against women support the Law and Criminology concentration in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.  Her interest in issues of higher education access, service-learning, criminal justice reform, gender role socialization and violence against women frame her research, writing, community service involvement and public speaking. In honor of the 50thanniversary of the Kerner Commission, she served as a co-author of  “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Black Riots and Civil Disorders vs White Rejection and Protest.

Dr. Spence also serves as the Director of the Spelman College Social Justice Fellows Program.  The Social Justice Program is a living and learning community program that attempts to match students’ intellectual interests with their social justice advocacy passions. She is committed to helping Spelman women fully actualize their commitment to “making a choice to change the world” through social justice advocacy.   Dr. Spence serves as the Director of the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center, an initiative sponsored by the American Association of Colleges and Universities.

AShe has served as consultant for the Ford Foundation Institutional Transformation Project, the University of Chicago Provost Initiative on Minority Affairs, the Agnes Scott College Center for Teaching and Learning and the Georgia Department of Corrections.  She completed a two term appointment as Faculty Trustee on the Spelman College Board of Trustees and is the former chair of the Board of the non-profit agency Men Stopping Violence and former Chair of the Board of Directors of Georgia Women for Change (now the Women’s Policy and Advocacy Group of the YWCA of Greater Atlanta). She is a Founding Member of the Women’s Solidarity Society for the Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Dr. Spence has served in the capacities of Assistant Dean for Freshman Studies, Associate Academic Dean and Academic Dean at Spelman College. She is a graduate of Spelman College and earned both the Masters and Ph. D. degrees in Criminal Justice with a special concentration in law from Rutgers University.




  • Spelman is both an HBCU and an all-women’s college. How does the intersection of race and gender affect how students and faculty engage in the social justice sphere as Black women?
  • HBCUs have always been hubs of student activism from the civil rights movement of the 60s to the Black Lives Matter movement today. In what ways has the role of the HBCU in social justice work evolved and in what ways does it follow in the rich cultural traditions of the past?
  • What is the significance of colleges and universities having designated social justice programs like the Social Justice Fellows Program? How do programs such as these correlate with the mission of Gideon’s Promise.

Gideon’s Promise: The Podcast can be found on Apple PodcastsSpotifySoundCloud,  YouTube and on the Gideon’s Promise website.



Gideon’s Promise: A Public Defender Movement to Transform Criminal Justice (2020) by Jonathan Rapping.