Professor Shaun Ossei-Owusu Named New America National Fellow

The fellowship supports writers, scholars, filmmakers, and journalists “who generate big, bold ideas that have an impact and spark new conversations about the most pressing issues of our day.”

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Presidential Assistant Professor of Law Shaun Ossei-Owusu has been named one of this year’s 10 New America National Fellows.

The highly competitive New America Fellowship Program supports and invests in writers, scholars, filmmakers, and journalists “who generate big, bold ideas that have an impact and spark new conversations about the most pressing issues of our day.” Nearly 400 people applied for this year’s program.

Through his fellowship, Ossei-Owusu will work on his manuscript, The People’s Champ: Legal Aid from Slavery to Mass Incarceration, which is under contract with Harvard University Press. The book uses archival research, court documents, oral histories, and interviews to highlight the role of legal aid organizations in long standing struggles for racial justice.

“Civil and criminal legal aid organizations have played an important role in struggles for racial justice and continue to do so during this pandemic,” said Ossei-Owusu. “I’m excited about being a recipient of the New America National Fellowship. The support and intellectual company that comes with the fellowship will help me as I try to capture the historical and contemporary landscape of American legal aid.”

Ossei Owusu’s research and teaching focuses on criminal law, social inequality, and the legal profession. He was born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y. and received his JD and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. His public writing has appeared in the American Prospect, Boston Review, and Jacobin, and he has received awards from the American Bar Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation.

Since 1999, the Fellows Program has supported 235 National Fellows as they pursued ambitious projects resulting in the publication of 125 books, 10 feature-length films, and several award-winning longform reporting projects.

Other National Fellow projects will focus on various salient policy areas, including racial inequality in higher education, Central American immigration to the United States, the role of schools in creating anti-Black and anti-Native racial ideologies, and the housing insecurity crisis.

“Welcoming our new class of National Fellows each year is a privilege and a pleasure,” said New America CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter. “The Class of 2021 is an exciting group of researchers, changemakers, and storytellers who bring a blend of powerful ideas and problem-solving talent to some of the most important policy issues of our time.”

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