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Faculty Directory

Margaret A. Burnham

Professor of Law
Tougaloo College, BA 1966
University of Pennsylvania, LLB 1969
Office: 81 Cargill Hall
Mail: 400 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: (617) 373-8857
Fax: (617) 373-5056
E-mail: m.burnham@neu.edu

Professor Burnham joined the Northeastern University School of Law faculty in 2002. Her fields of expertise are civil and human rights, comparative constitutional rights, and international criminal law. She is the founder of the School of Law’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, which engages students in legal matters relating to the 1960s US civil rights movement. In 2010, Professor Burnham headed a team of outside counsel and law students in a landmark case that settled a federal lawsuit: Professor Burnham’s team accused Franklin County Mississippi law enforcement officials of assisting Klansmen in the kidnapping, torture and murder of two 19-year-olds, Henry Dee and Charles Eddie Moore. The case and settlement were widely covered in the national press.

Professor Burnham began her career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In the 1970s, she represented civil rights and political activists. In 1977, she became the first African American woman to serve in the Massachusetts judiciary, when she joined the Boston Municipal Court bench as an associate justice. In 1982, she became partner in a Boston civil rights firm with an international human rights practice. In 1993, South African president Nelson Mandela appointed Professor Burnham to serve on an international human rights commission to investigate alleged human rights violations within the African National Congress. The commission was a precursor to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

A former fellow of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College and Harvard University's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Studies, Professor Burnham has written extensively on contemporary legal and political issues.

Fields of Expertise

  • Careers in the Law
  • Civil Rights
  • Constitutional Law
  • International Criminal Law
  • International Law

Selected Works

Selected Articles

“The Missing Civil Rights Murders: Justice Delayed in Mississippi,” Jurist Legal News and Research, June 11, 2007

“Indigenous Constitutionalism and the Death Penalty: The Case of the Commonwealth Caribbean,” 3 International Journal of Constitutional Law 582 (2005)

“Unbowed and Unbanned: The South African Freedom Charter at Fifty,” Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies 18 (April 2005)

“Cultivating a Seedling Charter: South Africa's Court Grows Its Constitution,” 3 Michigan Journal of Race & Law 29 (1997)

“Property, Parenthood and Peonage: Reflections on the Return to Status Quo Antebellum,” 18 Cardozo Law Review 433 (1996)

“An Impossible Marriage: Slave Law and Family Law,” 5 University of Minnesota Journal of Law & Inequality 187 (1987) 

Selected Chapters

“The Death Penalty in East Africa: Law, Politics and Transnational Advocacy,” in Human Rights NGOs in East Africa: Defining the Challenges (2007) (Makau Mutua, ed.)

“Legal Aid, Legal Services and Public Defender Organizations,” in Legal Chowder: Lawyering and Judging in Massachusetts (2002) (Rudolph Kass, ed.)