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Dr. Leland Ware is our February faculty member of the month.
Dr. Ware has been the Louis L. Redding Professor and Chair for the Study of Law and Public Policy at the University of Delaware since 2000. Before his present appointment, he was a professor at St. Louis University School of Law from 1987 to 2000. He was a visiting professor at Boston College Law School in 1992 and at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, in 1997. Professor Ware was University Counsel at Howard University from 1984 to 1987. For the five years prior to his position at Howard, he was a Trial Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, in Washington, D.C. He had previously practiced with a private firm in Atlanta, Georgia, and with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
Professor Ware's research focuses on various aspects of Civil Rights law. He has authored more than 100 publications consisting of books, academic journal articles, book chapters, essays, book reviews, editorials and other publications in academic journals and other publications. Professor Ware has organized a number of academic symposia, professional programs and hosted many distinguished lectures.
Professor Ware is a co-author, with Robert Cottrol and Raymond Diamond, of Brown v. Board of Education: Caste, Culture and the Constitution (2003). He is the editor of Choosing Equality: Essays and Narratives on the Desegregation Experience (co-edited with Robert L. Hayman with a Foreword by Vice President Joe Biden) Penn State Press (2009). His most recent book, A Century of Segregation: Race, Class, and Disadvantage, (Lexington) was published in November of 2018. He has lectured and made other presentations to numerous audiences in the United States, Europe and Africa. Professor Ware is a graduate of Fisk University and Boston College Law School.
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What are some of the biggest changes you've seen in civil rights since your time at the Department of Justice?
One change is the decline of overt, Jim Crow racism, and the rise of "racial resentment." This refers to a feeling that African Americans violate such traditional American values as individualism and self-reliance. Many whites believe that the enactment of Civil Rights laws largely eliminated discrimination. Racial discrimination is no longer a serious obstacle to Blacks' prospects for a good life. Any continuing disadvantages are largely due to their unwillingness to work hard enough. Individuals with this disposition may genuinely believe they are not racist but their beliefs about Blacks are grounded in unconscious stereotypes.
What led you to leave the DOJ in order to become an educator?
After leaving DOJ, I was briefly an in-house counsel at Howard University. A colleague, who later became the Dean of the University of Wisconsin's law school, encouraged me to make the change. It was great advice. Teaching law was the correct choice for me.
With civil rights still being at the forefront of American discourse, what practical knowledge do you impart on your students who show a strong desire to make a difference in this area?
I encourage students to become knowledgeable about important Civil Rights and Constitutional laws and how these laws affect the rights of individuals. Many people are not aware of how heavily their actions and decisions are influence by emotions. I urge students to distinguish between reasoning and emotions.
What do you foresee as being the next big civil rights issue facing the next generation of leaders and policymakers?
One is recognizing and understanding implicit bias. Civil Rights jurisprudence is predicated proving an intent to discriminate. Individuals who assert claims of discrimination must prove that the perpetrator acted with a discriminatory intent. Today, however, much of the discrimination that occurs is not the result of conscious animus. A substantial body of research has confirmed that the causes of discriminatory actions often operate at an unconscious level without the perpetrator's awareness of the source.
Decision making relies on "categorization" as a fundamental a part of the process of human cognition. Categorization simplifies the task of processing and retaining information. It allows individuals to identify objects, make predictions about future events and infer the existence of unobservable traits. Categorization operates at an unconscious level. It is automatic and occurs in milliseconds. Stereotyping is a form of categorization. It involves the creation of a mental image of a "typical" member of a category. Individuals are perceived as undifferentiated members of a group. Common traits are assigned to the entire group.
Stereotypes are assimilated at an early age and stored deep into the psyche as children mature. Decision makers can act on the basis of a person's race, sex, while subjectively believing they are acting on the basis of some legitimate, non-discriminatory reason. This adversely affects racial and ethnic minorities.
Do you see a path for those in impoverished communities to advance into the middle class? If so, what would be the first steps?
Education is the key to upward mobility. It equips students with the knowledge and skills they need to compete effectively in the labor markets. Unfortunately, many students in low-income, inner-city communities do not have access to the quality of training and instruction available in more affluent communities. Localities must invest in educational resourses that will allow young people to become competitive.
In your academic and professional career, what inspired you to catalog and research the legal fight for civil rights in the United States?
I was inspired by the Civil Rights movement and the Civil Rights lawyers such as Charles Houston, Thurgood Marshall, Louis Redding and other public interest lawyers who used court cases in a long-range, carefully orchestrated legal campaign against discrimination and segregation.
Given your vast experience in Civil Rights Law and the study of civil rights in our nation's past, what legal avenues do you think are the most effective ways at providing relief for groups of people that are discriminated against?
Legislation is the most effective vehicle. For example, the Voting Rights Act needs to be re-instated to combat racial gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics that are becoming as pervasive as they were in the 1950s. The current administration is eviscerating and, in many cases, reversing regulations that were enacted to protect the rights of minorities. One example involves regulations that were issued to minimize the gross racial disparities in student discipline in school districts across the nation. These regulations are being withdrawn by the Department of Education.
What advice do you have for young people that are hoping to attend law school and pursue a legal career in public service?
I would encourage them to pursue a legal career. A law degree provides preparation for an unusually broad range of career tracks. It is a worthwhile investment. A legal career is intellectually challenging and professionally fulfilling.
What do you see as being the top three issues that need to be addressed from your area of focus?
1) The use of undue, and often deadly, force by law enforcement against African Americans.
2) Mass incarceration of African Americans and bias in the criminal justice system
3) Improving access to quality educational opportunities for residents of low-income communities.