Lolita Buckner Inniss

Full-time faculty

Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, University Distinguished Professor, Robert G. Storey Distinguished Faculty Fellow, and Professor of Law

“The function of freedom is to free someone else.”
― Toni Morrison


Dr. Lolita Buckner Inniss is a University Distinguished Professor, an honor reserved for SMU faculty members who demonstrate the highest levels of academic achievement. She is also Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law, as well as a Robert G. Storey Distinguished Faculty Fellow. She has an ongoing research interest in the intersection of slavery, universities and law, out of which grows some of her most recent publications. The Center for Compassionate Leadership named her book The Princeton Fugitive Slave: The Trials of James Collins Johnson as one of five books white leaders should read on systemic racism along with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and others. Read more about it here. Her latest research concerns the intersection of the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements.

She is a member of the American Law Institute, and has published dozens of journal articles in prominent law school journals and peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Inniss has also published several book chapters and book reviews, along with scores of blog articles that have themselves been widely noted and cited. Much of her scholarly work has broken new ground and challenged existing paradigms via interdisciplinary approaches such as legal history and legal geography that sharpen and enlarge legal methodologies. She is a highly regarded scholar with a prominent national and international voice in her fields. She has expanded her research influence at SMU through connections with faculty in other schools and departments, most notably through co-organizing the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute Research Cluster: “New Feminist Discourses and Social Change” and through membership in the Institute’s “Preparing for the Second Century of Historical Inquiry about the Hilltop” Research Cluster. Dr. Inniss teaches a broad range of courses, including property law, critical race theory, and real estate transactions.

Dr. Inniss received her A.B. from Princeton University, where she majored in Romance Languages and Literature with certifications (minors) in African American and Latin American Studies. She earned her J.D. from UCLA where she was an editor of the National Black Law Journal, and a Moot Court Honors Participant. She holds an LL.M. with Distinction and a Ph.D. in law from Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, in Canada, where she received the Mary Jane Mossman Award for Work in Feminist Legal Theory and the Harley D. Hallett Award, and was a Peter Hogg Scholar and a Graduate Associate of the Institute of Feminist Legal Studies. Prior to joining SMU, Professor Inniss was tenured and achieved the rank of full professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University, where she held the Joseph C. Hostetler-Baker and Hostetler Chair in Law. She also previously held the Hamilton College Elihu Root Peace Fund Visiting Professorship in Women's Studies, a distinguished visiting chair, and was also a fellow of the New York University-Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Memory Project in Paris, France.

Areas of Expertise

  • Legal History
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Gender and the Law
  • Property Law


A.B., Princeton University
J.D., University of California, Los Angeles
LL.M., (with Distinction) Osgoode Hall Law School York University
Ph.D., Osgoode Hall Law School, York University


Civil Rights Seminar: Critical Race Theory
Real Estate Law Law in and of Film





'A southern college slipped from its geographical moorings’: slavery at Princeton, 38 Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 236 (2018) (invited contribution; peer reviewed)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Cherokee Freedmen and the Color of Belonging,Columbia Journal of Race and Law 100 (2015) [Cited as part of the historical background in the August 30, 2017 opinion of the United States District Court, District of Columbia in the case of The Cherokee Nation v. Nash, granting tribal rights to black Cherokee.]
Full-text:  SSRN  | SMU Repository

From Space-Off to Represented Space: Hill’s Reimagining Equality, 28 Berkeley Journal of Gender, Race and Justice 138 (Formerly Berkeley Women’s Law Journal) (2013)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

'Other Spaces' in Legal Pedagogy, 28 Harvard Journal on Racial and Ethnic Justice (Formerly Harvard Blackletter Law Journal) 67 (2012)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Bridging the Great Divide: A Response to Linda Greenhouse and Reva B. Siegel's Before (and After) Roe v. Wade: New Questions About Backlash, 89 Washington University Law Review 963 (2012)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

From Jazz to Double-Dutch Jump Rope: Mayeri’s Reasoning From Race, Texas Law Review (2011) [DICTA—ONLINE]
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

It’s the Hard Luck Life: Women’s Moral Luck and Eucatastrophe in Child Custody Allocation, 32 Women's Rights Law Reporter 56 (Invited; 2011)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

A Critical Legal Rhetoric Approach to In Re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation, 24 St. John's Journal of Legal Commentary 649 (2010)
Full-text:  SSRN  | SMU Repository

A 'Ho New World: Raced and Gendered Insult as Ersatz Carnival and the Corruption of Freedom of Expression Norms, 33 New York University Review of Law and Social Change 43 (2009)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Social Factoring the Numbers with Assisted Reproduction, 19 Texas Journal of Women and the Law 1, (Co-authored with Bridget Crawford) (Lead article) (2009)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Back to the Future: Is Form-Based Code an Efficacious Tool for Shaping Modern Civic Life?, 11 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change 75 (2007-2008)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Toward a Sui Generis View of Black Rights in Canada: Overcoming the Difference-Denial Model of Countering Anti-Black Racism,Berkeley Journal of African-American Law and Policy 32 (2007)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

A Domestic Right of Return? Race, Rights and Residency in New Orleans in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 27 Boston College Third World Law Review 325 (2007)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

A Moving Violation? Hypercriminalized Spaces and Fortuitous Presence in Drug Free School Zones,Texas Journal of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights 51 (2003)

Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Bicentennial Man: The New Millennium Assimilationism and the Foreigner Among Us, 54 Rutgers Law Review 1101 (2002)
 SSRN | SMU Repository

Tricky Magic: Blacks as Immigrants and the Paradox of Foreignness,
49 DePaul Law Review 85 (1999), reprinted in Immigration and Nationality Law Review 21 (invited; 2001) (Selected as best immigration law article of the year by journal editors and faculty reviewers)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Dutch Uncle Sam—Immigration Reform and Notions of Family, 36 Brandeis Journal of Family Law 177 (1997)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

California’s Proposition 187: Does it Mean What It Says? Does It Say What It Means? A Constitutional and Textual Analysis, 10 Georgetown Immigration Law Journal 577 (1996) (Lead article)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Book Chapters

Cecelia Kell v. Canada, in FEMINIST JUDGMENTS IN INTERNATIONAL LAW, eds. Hodson and Lavers (Hart Publishing, September 2019) (with Jessie Hohmann and Enzamaria Tramontana)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Ships' Ballast, in INTERNATIONAL LAW’S OBJECTS: EMERGENCE, ENCOUNTER AND ERASURE THROUGH OBJECT AND IMAGE (Jessie Hohmann and Daniel Joyce, editors) (Oxford University Press, 2019)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

James Collins Johnson: The Princeton Fugitive Slave, in PRINCETON AND SLAVERY, (2017) (invited contribution; peer reviewed)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Aboriginal Women and Property Law: Kell v. Canada, in FEMINIST INTERNATIONAL JUDGMENTS, with Jessie Hohmann and Enzamaria Tramontina (Troy Lavers, Loveday Hodson, editors) (Hart Publishers)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

A Moving Violation? Fortuitous Presence in Drug Free School Zones, in CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES: CRIME, REGULATION, AND POLICY (Alex Kreit) (Carolina Academic Press, 2013)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository


Other Publications

Government Reports

“Analysis of Grenada’s Referendum Act,” Expert Report co-authored with Sean Gralton and Josh Scheinert, American Bar Association/United Nations Development Program, ed. (December 21, 2015)

Book Reviews

Mrs. Dred Scot: A Genre Bender?, 24 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 458 (Invited; 2012) (with Kim Brooks, Sonia Lawrence, Emily Grabham and Maneesha Deckha) (reviewing Lea VanderVelde's MRS. DRED SCOTT: A LIFE ON SLAVERY'S FRONTIER (2009))
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

A Review of Negotiating Justice: Progressive Lawyering, Low Income Clients, and the Quest for Social Change. Corey S. Shdaimah, 37 (3) Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, Invited; 2010)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Encyclopedia Articles

Lucien-Leon Guillaume Lambert, in ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE BLACK PAST (Quintard Taylor, editor) (Invited; Online: 2013)

James Collins Johnson and the Princeton Fugitive Slave Case, in  AFRICAN AMERICAN NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY (Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Higginbotham, eds., Oxford University Press: 2012)

Archibald Campbell ‘Spader’ Seruby, in AFRICAN AMERICAN NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY (Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Higginbotham, eds.,(Oxford University Press: 2012)

George Pau Langevin
, in ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE BLACK PAST (Quintard Taylor, editor) (Online: 2012)

Christiane Taubira, in  ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE BLACK PAST (Quintard Taylor, editor) (Online: 2012)

Marie Dickerson Coker, Aviator and Musician, in AFRICAN AMERICAN NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY (Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Higginbotham, eds., Harvard University Press: 2008)

Blogs, Guest Blogs and Cross-Posts

“Ain’t I a Feminist Legal Scholar” 2008-present

“Comparative Racism and the Law (Canada/U.S.)” 2007-2008,

Book Log: The Princeton Fugitive Slave, James Collins Johnson,

Selected Letters to the Editor, Media Quotes and Guest Columns

Slaves as Immigrants from Ben Carson and the Academy, WASHINGTON POST, March 6, 2017

For Trusted Trump Insider, Longtime Passion For Writer Leads into a Storm
, Letter to the Editor, NEW YORK TIMES, July 21, 2016

Response to Yale’s Halloween E-mail
, Notes, THE ATLANTIC MAGAZINE, November 12, 2015

Shopping While Black: Racism in Everyday Life: Reply to Ta-Nehisi Coates, Letter to the Editor, NEW YORK TIMES, March 7, 2013

Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roe, Guest Columnist, CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, January 20, 2013

Noncognitive Skills and Life Success: Reply to Paul Tough
, Letter to the Editor, WALL STREET JOURNAL, September 15/16, 2012

Africa’s Role in the Slave Trade: Reply to Henry Louis Gates
, Letter to the Editor, NEW YORK TIMES April 25, 2011

Visible Man: Response to Jerald Walker, Letter to the Editor, CHRONICLE OF HIGHER OF EDUCATION November 2, 2007

Doubts Spread About Drug Free School Zone Laws, NBC News online March 23, 2006


Slavery at Princeton (Keynote Speaker)
Labour Law and Development Research Laboratory
McGill Law School
Montreal, Canada (November 16, 2018)

Democracy and Reproduction (Panelist)
International Society of Public Law (ICON-S)
University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong, China (June 25, 2018)

From Ferguson to Charlottesville: The State of Race Relations in America (Panelist)
Princeton University Alumni-Faculty Forum
Princeton, New Jersey (June 1, 2018)

A Review of Zeitlow’s The Forgotten Emancipator (Panelist)
Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association
Toronto, Canada (June 7, 2018)

Gender In(Equality) (Keynote Speaker)
Horace Mann School New York City High School Summit
Bronx, New York (April 2018)

Old Hollywood, New Hollywood and the Legacy of Me Too (Panelist)
Program on Me Too and the Role of Gender in Public Life
SMU Dedman School of Law Panel Discussion
Dallas, Texas (February 2018)

Program on “The Disaster Narrative and the State" (Panelist)
AALS Annual Meeting
San Diego, California (January 2018)

Featured Researcher
Cleveland State University, Fall 2016 (view video)

Princeton Prize in Race Relations Award Ceremony (Keynote Speaker)
Princeton University
Cleveland, Ohio (April 14, 2016)

Ship Ballast as an Object of International Law
Queen Mary University Conference for Authors
Objects of International Law
London, England (March 30-April 2, 2016)

National Lawyers Guild/Criminal Law Society Screening of Film “Prison Kids,” (Panelist)
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Cleveland, Ohio (March 7, 2016)

Finding Theodosia: A Genealogical Approach to Legal History, Gender and Slavery
Association of American Law Schools Joint Scholars and Scholarship Workshop
Fordham University Law School
New York, NY (January 6, 2016)

Kell v. Canada: An Intermediate Look
Feminist Legal Judgments Working Group Meeting
School of Oriental and African Studies
University of London (June 2015)

Kirkland Graduation Ceremony (Keynote Speaker)

Hamilton College
Clinton, NY (May 22, 2015)

Sexy Discrimination
Opening Panel Presentation
Tulane Forum on the Future of Law & Inequality
New Orleans, Louisiana  (November 6-8, 2014)

Lutie Lytle Legal Scholarship Workshop (Keynote Speaker)
University of Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin (June 2014)

Kell v. Canada: An Initial Look
Feminist Legal Judgments Working Group Meeting
School of Oriental and African Studies
University of London (May 2014)

Connecticut Clergyman Ammi Rogers and the Legal History of Abortion
Opening Panel Presentation
Feminist Legal Theory Project
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia (November 2013)

The Trial of James Collins Johnson
Panel Presentation
Annual Meeting of the American Society of Legal History
Miami, Florida (November 2013)

The Princeton Fugitive Slave
Invited Public Lecture Department of History
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ (February 2013)

Fisher v. Texas: Gender, Race, Rhetoric and Affirmative Action
Invited Public Lecture Pre-Law Society
Hamilton College
Clinton, NY (February 2013)

Commentary on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin
Columbus African American
Columbus, Ohio (November 2011)

Thief? Us. Criminal Sanctions for Enrolling Non-Resident Children in Public School Districts (Plenary Panel Speaker) September 2011
ClassCrits Conference
American University Washington College of Law
Washington, DC (
November 2011)

The Princeton Fugitive Slave Case: Jimmy the College Apple Man and the Rhetoric and Memories of Slavery (Lecture)
Slavery and the University Conference
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia (February 2011)

Generational Feminism, Popular Culture and Legal Rhetoric (Panel Presentation)
National People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference
Seton Hall Law School
Newark, New Jersey (September 2010)

Critical Race Theory from Theory to Method: Critical Discourse and Rhetorical Analysis as a Mechanism for Exploring the Intersection of Race and Gender (Panel Presentation)
UCLA Critical Race Theory Symposium
UCLA School of Law
Los Angeles, CA  (March 2010)

Hurricane Katrina and Race (Lecture)
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Black Law Students' Association Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
Cleveland, Ohio (January 2010)

Dirty, Sexy, Money: A Rhetorical Analysis of Child Custody Allocation (Panel Presentation)
Rutgers University Law School
Camden, New Jersey (November 2009)

Panopticism, Synopticism, and Black Women in Child Custody Cases (Lecture)
Distinguished Speaker Series
Pace Law School
White Plains, NY (March 2009)

The Façade of New Urbanism and the Form-Based Code (Keynote Address)
Property Rights Foundation of American Twelfth Annual Conference
Albany, NY (October 2008)

Is Form Based Code an Effective Tool For Shaping Modern Civic Life? (Invited Lecture)
American Dream Coalition Conference
Houston, Texas (May 2008)

A ‘Ho New World: Raced and Gendered Insult as Ersatz Carnival and the Corruption of Freedom of Expression Norms (Invited)

Clason Lecture
Western New England School of Law
Springfield, Massachusetts (April 2008)

Legal Rhetorical Constructions of Black Woman Immigrants (Invited Lecture)
Honorable James J. Gilvary Symposium on Law, Religion & Social Justice
University of Dayton School of Law
Dayton, Ohio (March 2008)

The Critical Legal Rhetoric Approach to Law and Identity (Panel presentation)  
Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting
Washington, D.C. (January 2007)

The Role of Memory in Critical Legal Rhetorical Analysis (Lecture)  
“Too Pure an Air”: Conference on Law and the Quest for Freedom, Justice, and Equality
Gloucester, England (June 2006)

The Rights Deficit Abroad: Black Rights in Canada (Panel Presentation)
Western Professors of Color Legal Scholarship Conference
San Diego, California (Spring 2006)

Journey to Justice: Sui Generis Black Rights in Canada? (Keynote Address)
York University Black History Month Celebration

Osgoode Hall Law School
North York, Ontario, Canada (February 2006)

Juridical Statehood, State Failure and the Case of Haiti (Panel Presentation)
LatCrit South-North Exchange
San Juan, Puerto Rico (December 2004)

Women Immigrants of Color in the Republic of Ireland (Panel Presentation)
Gendered Borders: Women and Immigration in Europe Conference
Amsterdam, Netherlands (October 2004)

Journal of a “Crit”: African Ancestored Immigrants in Ireland (Panel Presentation)
Second National People of Color Scholarship
George Washington University
Washington, DC (September 2004)

Response to Paper on Immigrant Access to Drivers’ Licenses (Panel Presentation)
Midwest People of Color Scholarship Conference Annual Meeting
Cleveland, Ohio (October 2003)

Company, Care & Parentage: The Role of Race in the Demise of Irish Residency Based on the Birth of a Child (Lecture)
Latino Critical Theory (LatCrit) Annual Meeting
Cleveland, Ohio (Spring 2003)

Vouchers Versus Charter Schools (Panel Presentation)
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Cleveland, Ohio (April 2002)

Liability for Narcotics Offenses Under State and Federal School Zone Statutes (Invited Lecture)
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Cleveland, Ohio (April 2002)

Using Technology in Teaching (Panel Presentation)
Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting
New Orleans, Louisiana (January 2002)

Liability Under Federal and State Schoolyard Statutes (Panel Presentation)
American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting
Atlanta, Georgia (November 2001)

Immigration Issues Arising from the World Trade Center Attack (Invited Lecture)
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Cleveland, Ohio (2001)

Bicentennial Man--The New Millennium Assimilationism and the Foreigner Among Us (Lecture)
Mid-Atlantic Scholarship Conference
Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson Law School
St. Carlisle, PA (February 2001)

Literature, and the Legal Interpretation of Mass Child Killings (Panel Presentation)
Central States Law Schools Association
Chicago, Illinois (October 2000)

The Mass Killing of Children and the Criminal Justice System (Lecture)
Midwestern People of Color 10th Anniversary Conference
Sedona, Arizona (March 2000)

Immigration and Race (Panel Presentation)
Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting
Washington D.C. (January 2000)

The Birmingham Bombing, the Jonesboro Shootings and the Development of a Legal Interpretive Framework (Lecture)
Law and Society Summer Workshop
Newark, New Jersey (July 1999)

Black Immigrants and Membership in the National Polity (Panel Presentation)

National People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference
Chicago, Illinois (April 1999)


Making Amends: How Funders Can Address Slavery’s Legacy
Inside Philanthropy
(September 19, 2019)

A Fugitive Slave in Princeton,
Princeton Alumni Weekly 26
(October 5, 2016)

Live Interview Regarding the Bill Cosby Pretrial Hearing
Al Jazeera America News (view video)
(aired February 2, 2016)

Lawyer Faces National Scrutiny While Defending Bill Cosby
National Public Radio (view video)
Elizabeth Blair Reporting
Washington, D.C. (aired January 8, 2016)

Take it or Leave it: A Response to Susan Patton’s
‘Advice for the Young women of Princeton:
the Daughters I Never Had’

 Daily Princetonian  (April 4. 2013)

Their Eyes Were Watching God: Law, Race, Gender and Culture
WCPN (NPR) Cleveland Public Radio Show
This show was used as part of the introduction to a Zora Neale Hurston conference at Cleveland State University in September 2012

Commentary On Henry Louis Gates and the Reparations Debate
April 10, 2011

Commentary on Form Based Code
Marketplace, NPR nationally syndicated segment
March-April 2011

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird: Law, Race, Gender and Culture
WCPN - Cleveland Public Radio Show (hear interview)
October 2010 

What They Leave Behind
National Public Radio Interview (hear interview)
March 23, 2004

Immigration and the 1996 Elections
ABC Television
Philadelphia, PA
Fall 1996