SMU community to examine Bryan Stevenson's ‘Just Mercy’

Incoming SMU students and the community will examine justice, equality and poverty in Just Mercy on Sunday.

Just Mercy

Just MercyDALLAS (SMU) — Incoming SMU students will examine tough questions about justice, equality and poverty in their first college reading assignment — attorney Bryan Stevenson's book Just Mercy (Random House, 2014).

The book is part of the University’s Common Reading Program, an academic initiative that includes small-group discussions about the book before and after classes begin. Community members, alumni, book lovers and book clubs are invited to join SMUReads to take part in other events surrounding the book.

The first group discussions of the book will be held Sunday, Aug. 21, at various locations in the SMU Residential Commons, prior to Opening Convocation at 5:30 p.m.

Author Stevenson's free campus lecture is open to the public at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 13, at McFarlin Auditorium, 6405 Boaz Lane. Preregistration is requested at

Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative in 1989 in Montgomery, Ala., as a young lawyer recently graduated from Harvard Law School. As executive director, he leads a legal staff dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need — the poor and the wrongly condemned. One of his first cases was to defend Walter McMillian, who was sentenced to die for a highly publicized Alabama murder he insisted he didn’t commit. In Just Mercy, Stevenson describes how the case transformed his understanding of mercy and justice.

"The true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us," Stevenson writes in the book. "The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned."

A New York Times best-seller and named one of the best books of 2014 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Time, The Seattle Times and Esquire, the book also won the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. In addition it won the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction, the Books for a Better Life Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Kirkus Prize.

SMUReads partners include Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, Barnes and Noble College, Coaching for Literacy, Dallas Independent School District, DISD African American Success Initiative, Dallas Public Library, Dallas Social Venture Partners, Friends of SMU Libraries, Highland Park Library, Reading for a Reason and Well Read Women of Dallas.

Past SMU common reading books include Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel; Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich; The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman; The Devil’s Highway by Luís Alberto Urrea; Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama; Zeitoun by Dave Eggers; The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot; The Big Short by Michael Lewis; The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore and We Need New Names by SMU graduate NoViolet Bulaweyo.