Magdalene Zier

Magdalene Zier

Class of 2017, American Studies
JD and History PhD Student at Stanford University
Magdalene Zier

Thesis Title: Staging the Wake: Black Women Playwrights and the Fight Against Lynching, 1916-1940

What Now: JD and History PhD Student at Stanford University

What Next: Many years of grad school! 

Follow Me:
@magdalenezier (Twitter)

History & Literature is entirely responsible for where I am today. After a few terrifying trips to the Science Center, I discovered the Barker Center during my first year at Harvard and soon made it my home away from home. I loved the community that the Hist & Lit tutorials fostered and the opportunity to take classes in a wide range of fields. I also took several courses that met in Harvard’s libraries, such as Houghton and Schlesinger, which exposed me to the art of archival research. It was in Professor Robin Bernstein’s African American Theater, Drama & Performance class, which often visited to Houghton, that I first encountered the anti-lynching plays that centered my thesis. As president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club, I devoted basically all of my free time to theater, but I had not previously understood the long legacy of using the stage as a site for protest. Thanks to the support of my professors, especially Robin Bernstein, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, and Tim McCarthy, I dove deep into the importance of art to the anti-lynching movement. But the greatness of Hist & Lit did not stop there: Professor McCarthy helped me to partner with the American Repertory Theater and Harvard Law School to launch a reading of the anti-lynching plays and bring in several, award-winning playwrights to hold a workshop and panel discussion about using theater to protest anti-Black violence today.

After college, I moved to Baltimore to work at the NAACP’s national headquarters. There, I had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects related to voting rights, environmental justice, police reform, hate crime prevention, and more. Thanks to the support of Harvard’s Alex G. Booth Traveling Fellowship, I also spent five months in the Caribbean, studying the intertwined histories of rum and slavery.

Then, I was onto graduate school at Stanford. Although I had not previously known anyone who’d done a JD/PhD, Hist & Lit inspired me to stick to an interdisciplinary path. The joint degree enables me to study (and strive to combat) the many examples of racial and gender inequity in U.S. legal history. And, my Hist & Lit days are never too distant: I recently published a piece in the
Stanford Law Review on anti-lynching legislation. Next year, I’m headed to San Diego to clerk for the Hon. M. Margaret McKeown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Then, I’ll return to Stanford to finish my many years of grad school!