Dorothy Roberts


  • Dorothy E. Roberts (PSC Research Associate) was featured in Penn Law News for a chapter she authored in The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, which illuminates the legacy of slavery in the contemporary United States, and highlights the contributions of Black Americans to every aspect of American society. Since 2019, The 1619 Project and the conversations it has sparked have expanded through new resources, including a podcast, a book-length anthology, and a children's book.

  • Dorothy Roberts (PSC Research Associate) did a Q&A for Youth Today making the case to abolish the child welfare system in the United States. Roberts' upcoming book, Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families--and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World, draws on decades of research to reveal that the child welfare system is better understood as a “family policing system” that collaborates with law enforcement and prisons to oppress Black communities. Child protection investigations ensnare a majority of Black children, putting their families under intense state surveillance and regulation. Black children are disproportionately likely to be torn from their families and placed in foster care, driving many to juvenile detention and imprisonment.

  • Dorothy Roberts (PSC Research Associate) participated in the 21st annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture in Social Justice in conversation with Planned Parenthood’s Alexis McGill Johnson. The discussion, featured in Penn Today, was centered on reproductive rights and anti-racism. Roberts also made an appearance on MSNBC honoring the late bell hooks.

Director, Program on Race, Science and Society
George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology
Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights
Professor of Africana Studies

J.D., Law, Harvard University, 1980


Dorothy Roberts, an acclaimed scholar of race, gender and the law, joined the University of Pennsylvania as its 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology and the Law School where she also holds the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mosell Alexander chair. Her pathbreaking work in law and public policy focuses on urgent contemporary issues in health, social justice, and bioethics, especially as they impact the lives of women, children and African-Americans. Her major books include Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century (New Press, 2011); Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Books, 2002), and Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Pantheon, 1997). She is the author of more than 80 scholarly articles and book chapters, as well as a co-editor of six books on such topics as constitutional law and women and the law.


  • National Human Genome Research Institute: Dorothy E. Roberts on How Media and Language Can Fight Scientific Racism
  • Penn Arts and Sciences - In These Times : Julia Lynch and Dorothy E. Roberts on Exacerbating the Health Care Divide
  • Rise Magazine: Dorothy E. Roberts on her upcoming book Torn Apart