In Celebration of Joyce Hughes In Celebration of Joyce Hughes

On Friday, April 14, the Northwestern Pritzker Law community, family, close friends, and colleagues gathered in the Thorne auditorium to celebrate the legacy of Joyce A. Hughes, trailblazer and longtime professor at the Law School, who retired at the conclusion of the 2021-2022 academic year.  Read  »

The Legacy of Joyce Hughes

By Shanice Harris –– As we celebrate the life and legacy of Joyce A. Hughes, we honor a person of many firsts. As a professor who was not only Black, but also a woman, she faced challenges beyond those of her peers. Through her career in law, and as a politically active person in Chicago, she has redefined what it means to be a successful Black woman in America. 

A Pathbreaking Career

After earning her JD from the University of Minnesota—being the first Black woman to do so—Professor Hughes became a member of faculty there in 1971. This made her the first Black female tenure-track law professor at a predominantly white institution (PWI). Before teaching, she was awarded a clerkship with a federal district court judge in Minnesota—another first. 

She joined the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law faculty in 1975. She received tenure four years later, making her the first Black woman to do so at any school of Northwestern University, as well as at any predominately white law school in the nation. She served on the Chicago Board of Education, and was the first woman and the first African American General Counsel of the Chicago Transit Authority. Throughout Professor Hughes’s career, she has established herself an expert in civil procedure, constitutional law, and refugees & asylum. She remained at the Law School until her retirement after the 2021-2022 academic year. 

A Look Back

Learn about Professor Emerita Hughes's accomplishments over the years from videos, news coverage, magazine articles, and her scholarly work.

Joyce HughesFEATURE

Q&A with Joyce A. Hughes: A Pioneer in Law

By Shanice Harris –– Professor Hughes says she long defied what society deemed acceptable work for women, let alone a Black woman—sometimes to the dismay of men who tried to discourage her along the way. Professor Hughes decided to prove her doubters wrong. We spoke with Professor Hughes about her journey to Northwestern, the importance of representation, and what inspires her work today.  Read  »


Northwestern University Law Review Special Tribute Issue

On November 13, 2023, the Northwestern University Law Review published a special issue honoring Professor Joyce A. Hughes. This issue features an essay by Professor Hughes, as well as work by five Black women scholars.  Read  »


Professor Joyce A. Hughes Endowed Scholarship

Established in 2021, the scholarship is funded by a generous group of Northwestern Pritzker Law alumni and friends: Courtney Armstrong (JD-MBA ’97), Naima Walker Fierce (JD ’96), Sharon Bowen (JD-MBA ’82), Toni Bush (JD ’81), Joe Richardson (JD ’96), and Dean Hari Osofsky. The scholarship provides financial aid to first-generation law students, students who will diversify their class, or those interested in pursuing academic scholarship focused on the underrepresentation of various populations.

Donate to the scholarship fund  »

Serah LawalFEATURE

Serah Lawal (JD '25) Receives Inaugural Joyce A. Hughes Scholarship

After learning more about Professor Emerita Hughes’s legacy, the 1L student from New York City’s first reaction was, “Wow, this is someone I want to live up to and be like, because who wouldn't? She's an amazing trailblazer.”   Read  »

Professor HughesHONORS

A History-Making Career: Joyce A. Hughes Recognized With the Prestigious Margaret Brent Award

Joyce A. Hughes was selected by the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession as one of the 2021 Margaret Brent Award recipients. The prestigious award recognizes five outstanding women each year "who have achieved professional excellence and paved the way for other women in the legal profession."   Read  »


#NLawProud: Professor Joyce A. Hughes

Professor Joyce A. Hughes was born in Alabama during the time of rigid segregation. Through the grit and determination she inherited from her mother, Professor Hughes went on to become the country’s first female, African American, tenure-track law professor at a predominately white institution.

Joyce HughesHONORS

A Woman’s Place Is in the Professor’s Chair

Joyce A. Hughes was among those honored in the Northwestern University Library’s "A Woman’s Place" exhibit, which celebrated 150 years of women at Northwestern Pritzker Law.  Explore  »

Joyce HughesFEATURE

A ‘Together’ Professor

Check out this feature on Joyce A. Hughes by Ebony Magazine from May 1972. At the time, she was an associate professor of law at the University of Minnesota. She discusses the women's liberation movement, growing up in Minneapolis, and the challenges of teaching.   Read  »


Scholarly Contributions

Joyce A. Hughes has conducted important research and shared perspective on the challenges facing Black women in the law profession for many years. Check out her work in law reviews from around the country, including University of Michigan Press and National Black Law Journal.

"Black and Female in Law."   Rutgers Race & The Law Review 5 (2003): 105-115.

"Different Strokes: The Challenges Facing Black Women Law Professors in Selecting Teaching Methods."  National Black Law Journal 16.1 (1998): 27–34.

"In the Beginning."  Perspectives (American Bar Association. Commission on Women in the Profession) 10 (2001): 3.

"Neither a Whisper Nor a Shout." in  Rebels In Law: Voices in History of Black Women Lawyers. Edited by J. Clay Smith, Jr. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000: 90-101.

"Report of the Section on Administration of Law Schools."  Association of American Law Schools. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting 1973, no. Part One – Section II (1973): 108-226. 

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