The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth

Date of Event



Event Description

Drawing upon 25 years of experience representing Black youth in D.C.'s juvenile court, Kristin Henning confronts America's irrational, manufactured fears of Black youth and makes a powerfully compelling case that the crisis in racist American policing begins with its relationship to Black children. Discriminatory and aggressive policing has socialized a generation of Black teenagers to fear and resent the police. Henning details the long-term consequences of racism and trauma Black youth experience at the hands of police and their vigilante surrogates.

Unlike white youth, who are afforded the freedom to test boundaries, experiment with sex and drugs, and figure out who they are and who they want to be, Black youth are seen as a threat to white America and are denied healthy adolescent development. Henning examines through court cases the criminalization of Black adolescent play and sexuality, and of Black fashion, hair, and music. She highlights the effects of police presence in schools, and the depth of policing-induced trauma in Black adolescents.

Speaker’s Bio:

Kristin Henning is the Blume Professor of Law and director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative at Georgetown Law, where she and her law students represent youth accused of delinquency in Washington, DC. Kris was previously the lead attorney for the Juvenile Unit of the DC Public Defender Service and is currently the director of the Mid-Atlantic Juvenile Defender Center.

Kris has trained state actors across the country on the impact of racial bias and trauma in the juvenile and criminal legal systems. Her workshops help stakeholders recognize their own biases and develop strategies to counter them. Kris also worked closely with the McArthur Foundation’s Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network to develop a 41-volume Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP), a national training curriculum for juvenile defenders. She now co-hosts, with the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC), an annual week-long JTIP summer academy for trial lawyers and a series of “Train the Trainer” programs for experienced defenders. In 2019, Kris partnered with NJDC to launch a Racial Justice Toolkit for youth advocates, and again in 2020, to launch the Ambassadors for Racial Justice program, a year-long program for juvenile defenders committed to challenging racial injustice in the juvenile legal system through litigation and systemic reform.

Kris writes extensively about race, adolescence and policing. Her new book, The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth, was published by Penguin Random House in September 2021. Henning serves on the Board of Directors for the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, the ABA’s Juvenile Justice Standards Task Force, and ALI’s Restatement on Children and the Law project. She has won several awards including the 2021 Juvenile Leadership Prize by the Juvenile Law.

Lecture Series

Social Justice Law Center

Subject Headings

civil rights; racial discrimination; criminalization of Black youth


CWRU School of Law Moot Courtroom

Document Type