The Institute for Human Rights

  • 2022 Padma Award recipients named

    The Padma Award recognizes UAB faculty, staff and students who go the extra mile in support of underrepresented populations.

    Read more...
  • Dang’s accomplished UAB experience culminates with presenting at Posters on the Hill

    Derek Dang, graduating from UAB with honors, will present to legislators at the prestigious Posters on the Hill event, hosted by the Council on Undergraduate Research.

    Read more...
  • UAB panel dives into the Ukraine crisis

    A panel including experts from across UAB will discuss the Ukraine crisis and its implications for geopolitics and human rights.

    Read more...
  • Keeping human rights relevant during the pandemic

    Nothing brings human rights into focus quite like a global pandemic.

    Nothing brings human rights into focus quite like a global pandemic. At the UAB Institute for Human Rights (IHR), we knew from the beginning that no matter what adjustments we needed to make in our programming or day-to-day operations, we had important work to do bringing attention to the disparities and devastations that COVID-19 would invariably wreak on the world. While we were grappling with how the pandemic would impact our own lives, it became the focus and mission of the IHR to provide information and insight into the perspectives and experiences of people whose lives were impacted in vastly different (and often more devastating) ways. Our interns got to work researching and posting about the horrors of COVID-19 for the most vulnerable among us, focusing on how the pandemic was exposing and exacerbating human rights violations for People of Color in the United States, refugees and displaced persons in the Middle East, women, persons with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S. and around the world.

    In March 2020, we had to cancel the remainder of our guest lecture series, but by fall, we had pivoted to hosting our events in the virtual space. In some ways, it opened up opportunities for us to invite international speakers we would have otherwise had a hard time hosting. With the murder of George Floyd and the insurgence of protests in support of Black Lives Matter over the summer, we decided to focus our fall programming around the duel pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice, considering how they were interconnected and how dealing with one required dealing with the other as well. Of course, all of this was happening during one of the most contentious election seasons in recent history. Here are some highlights from the past year.

    IHR Blog 

    In March 2020, as the United States was just beginning to grapple with the virus, I wrote about how public health policy and legislation in response to COVID-19 would have significant consequences on human rights, and how states and public health agencies should be intentional about protecting human rights as they develop and implement policies aimed at abating the spread of the virus. IHR Blog intern Carmen Ross wrote about the intersections of the coronavirus and racism, discussing how the rise in hate speech, violence, and discrimination against people of Asian descent fit into the historical pattern of unfairly blaming a particular group of people for the outbreak of a disease. Our guest blogger, Grace Ndanu, who lives in Kenya, enlightened our readership on how the pandemic was playing out in her country and the disparities she was noticing along the fissures of the rural/urban divide.

    We also invited middle school students from Birmingham City Schools to write about their perspectives and experiences. They wrote about the difficulties transitioning to an online learning environment and how they hoped the Black Lives Matter protests would inspire real and lasting change in the way our institutions regard the value of Black people. 

    IHR Guest Speaker Events  

    In the Spring of 2020, we started a series of virtual events called Human Rights in Times of COVID-19. For each event, we invited a panel of experts to discuss different issues related to a human rights approach to managing a global pandemic. We began with a discussion of public safety versus individual liberty, talking about how to navigate the tension created by the authority of governments to impede on individual rights in times of public emergencies such as pandemics and the implications for human rights and people’s lives in the U.S. and elsewhere. Leading up to the fall semester, we invited education experts to discuss how the response to COVID-19 affected the right to education for students in situations of more or less privilege and access.

    We also hosted an event with the Offender Alumni Association, which works to assist formerly incarcerated people to re-enter the job market, find affordable housing, and achieve success and well-being in their lives after prison. In addition, we hosted a panel discussion on voting as a human right that featured local activists, civil rights foot soldiers, and political scientists. One of the opportunities that came with the virtual format was the ability to invite international scholars and human rights advocates from all around the world to give us perspectives on human rights and human rights violations in places such as Turkey, Greece, the Palestinian territories, the U.K., and Cuba, among others.   

    Social Justice Café  

    With quarantine and working from home, along with heightened political tensions pervading the national discourse, we recognized the need for people to engage with one another and discuss everything going on. This prompted us to start the Social Justice Café, a virtual space to come together and have these discussions. This space is welcoming and inclusive; it is built around civil discourse and meaningful connection. Over the course of the spring semester, we met to discuss the Biden administration’s approach to human rights, Dr. King’s notion of equity and how to carry that forward in the 21st century, the rise in anti-Asian violence and discrimination, the insurrection, extremism and transitional justice, and the crisis at the U.S./Mexico border.

    We plan to continue our virtual programming, and we encourage you to join us!


    Find upcoming events for the Institute for Human Rights and subscribe to their newsletter.

    Read more...
  • UAB presents author Harriet Washington in virtual discussion Nov. 4

    Washington, author of “Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present,” will speak about how legacies of violence and exploitation impact the medical system today.

    Read more...
  • Uncovering the power of human rights education at UAB

    Although both of her parents graduated from UAB’s School of Medicine, attending the university was not part of Katie Fagan’s long-term plan — at least not at first.

    Read more...
  • Uncovering the power of human rights

    While growing up in Birmingham, Katie Fagan lived a few blocks away from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Although both of her parents graduated from UAB’s School of Medicine, attending the university was not part of Fagan’s long-term plan. At least not at first.

    While growing up in Birmingham, Katie Fagan lived a few blocks away from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Although both of her parents graduated from UAB’s School of Medicine, attending the university was not part of Fagan’s long-term plan. At least not at first.

    “I wanted a bit more distance,” said Fagan, AmeriCorps VISTA and volunteer engagement member for the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting clean water for the sake of public health, recreation, and wildlife habitat throughout the Black Warrior River watershed.

    Fagan’s academic journey helped her achieve that desired distance. After studying sociology at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, she made her way across the Atlantic Ocean to the University of Manchester where she earned her Master of Science in Environmental Governance. That’s also where she met Elliot Nicholson-Cox.

    Fagan and Nicholson-Cox connected quickly and uncovered a shared interest in human rights and peace studies. Nicholson-Cox, an alumnus of the University of Bradford’s Peace and Development Studies program, was teaching full-time and planning his next academic step. While crafting his vision for the future and exploring his evolving interest in anthropology, he decided to visit Fagan while she was back in Birmingham spending time with her family.

    During his trip to Birmingham, Nicholson-Cox was determined to meet Douglas P. Fry, Ph.D., a prominent anthropologist and former chair of the UAB Department of Anthropology.

    “Dr. Fry was instrumental in establishing the Anthropology of Peace and Human Rights program [at UAB],” said Nicholson-Cox. “We chatted and stayed in touch, and he invited me to apply for the program.”

    Nicholson-Cox followed Fry’s recommendation and was accepted into the graduate program. Fagan also started exploring the possibility of returning home, given her burgeoning relationship with Nicholson-Cox and deepening interest in peace studies.

    “All of my research led me to focus on issues of justice and environmental justice,” said Fagan. “I had been around Elliot and his friends who had all done peace studies in undergrad and had been immersed in it. I thought it [UAB’s Anthropology of Peace and Human Rights graduate program] was another master’s that would really help push my research.”

    Within a year, both Nicholson-Cox and Fagan had moved from England to Alabama and enrolled in the APHR program. Although they shared several foundational classes, they uncovered their own specific interests within the program.

    Fagan embraced her return to Alabama and sought opportunities to ground her research and work in her home state through interdisciplinary courses in public policy and public health and internship opportunities with the Jefferson County Memorial Project and the Institute for Human Rights. As Fagan developed her Birmingham network and continued to refine her focus on public participation in environmental justice cases (with a focus on clean water issues in North Birmingham), Nicholson-Cox found ways to pursue his specific interest in the ways education systems work in relation to peace and conflict in local communities.

    “Katie was able to spend lots of time doing research that was specific to Birmingham,” said Nicholson-Cox. “While I was doing more classically academic work.”

    Both Nicholson-Cox and Fagan graduated from the APHR program in 2020, and, now, their specific interests are informing their respective post-graduation paths. At the moment, Nicholson-Cox is exploring Ph.D. programs that will allow him to further build on his master’s thesis, which focuses on the way education was used as a tool of colonial Spain in Mexico from the 16th century up to today. He will also teach the Intro to Peace Studies course at UAB in Fall 2021.

    Fagan, on the other hand, is working with the Black Warrior Riverkeeper and serving on junior boards for both the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Alabama Rivers Alliance. Throughout her daily work and volunteer activities, Fagan draws on her knowledge and skills from the APHR program, including conflict resolution and conflict transformation.

    “I’m still using all of my research. [The APHR program] is very multidisciplinary,” said Fagan. “I’m currently on junior boards for the Botanical Gardens and the Alabama Rivers Alliance and discussions about equity and justice are definitely a part of that work. I’ve been able to bring a lot of theories from the program out to these groups, which has really helped me.”

    According to Peter Verbeek, Ph.D., associate professor and program director in the Department of Anthropology, both students made a lasting impact on the APHR program. “Access to a healthy and sustainable environment and to age-appropriate education are not privileges but rights that are integral to the basic human rights framework that much of the world has pledged to uphold,” said Verbeek. “Katie Fagan and Elliott Nicholson-Cox, two distinguished alumni of the APHR program, have dedicated much of their work in APHR on studying these basic rights and how working to advance them equals working for positive peace. Their contributions to APHR have been multifold and much appreciated, and all of us in the UAB Department of Anthropology have great expectations for their future careers as scholars and activists of peace.”

    It’s clear that both Fagan and Nicholson-Cox will carry their knowledge and networks with them throughout their careers and future academic pursuits. It’s also clear that the APHR program profoundly influenced the ways in which both alumni see the world.

    When prompted to reflect on and consider the importance of the APHR program and human rights education more broadly, Nicholson-Cox offered a powerful insight: “Rather than talking about abstract political ideas… using human rights as a frame grounds everything in human needs that just makes sense to people. We all have a right to a safe and clean house, good food, drinking water, to have our voice heard when we choose to speak. These are all very common-sense ideas that people have for what would make a just and peaceful society.”

    Fagan agrees. “It’s collaborative. Peace is a lot more holistic and something to reach for than I think people realize. It impacts everything. There’s nothing outside of the discussion of peace and human rights,” said Fagan.

    Read more...
  • Remote partnership improves care, cultural understanding amid pandemic

    A virtual internship enables students to be part of change here and abroad and help develop better outcomes for adolescents in Nicaragua.

    Read more...
  • UAB to host political science professor April 7 for a discussion on disciplinary respectability

    Tamar Malloy, Ph.D., will demonstrate how rights and protections are undermined by the requirements that people become “respectable” in order to be considered good, moral and worthy of protection.

    Read more...
  • Social Justice Café examines rise of anti-Asian hate amid the pandemic March 31

    Social Justice Café will host a virtual conversation March 31 to discuss the rise of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans during the pandemic.

    Read more...
  • CAS grants spur interdisciplinary research

    Pilot funds enable cross-campus collaborations focused on mobility with disabilities and older caregivers with HIV.

    Read more...
  • Give on March 4 and help UAB care for our community

    Donations for Giving Day will make an impact on UAB’s efforts to fight COVID-19, care for pediatric trafficking survivors, support students, provide dental, medical and eye care to those in need, and more.

    Read more...
  • UAB announces 2021 King Week activities in partnership with the City of Birmingham, local sponsors

    UAB celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through local partnerships and events including Word from the Mountain Top and more.

    Read more...
  • Oct. 26, “Human Rights in Time of COVID-19: The Continued Neglect of Migrants in Lesvos, Greece”

    UAB’s Institute for Human Rights will host a lecture to discuss the global impact of COVID-19 and the neglect of refugees.

    Read more...
  • UAB hosts “Police Reform” on Facebook Live, Oct. 15

    Join UAB’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for a Facebook Live discussion on police reform, prison violence and community training.

    Read more...
  • Faculty fellows to foster education-abroad experiences for students

    Nine faculty and staff selected for the 2020-21 Faculty Fellows in Education Abroad program will develop courses to promote active and ethical citizenship, cultural immersion and community engagement.

    Read more...
  • UAB hosts “Mass Incarceration: Policy Landscape on Alabama” on Sept. 23

    Join UAB’s Institute for Human Rights for a Zoom Live discussion on mass incarceration policy in Alabama.

    Read more...
  • UAB to host “Life after Prison: Insights from the Offender Alumni Association” on Facebook, Oct. 1

    Join UAB’s Lister Hill Center for Health Policy for a Facebook panel discussion on life after prison and how our community can help improve the lives of past offenders.

    Read more...
  • UAB hosts “History of Birmingham” on Facebook Live, Sept. 10

    Join UAB’s Institute for Human Rights for a Facebook Live discussion on the civil rights history of Birmingham that explores the effects of racist policies both past and present.

    Read more...
  • Human Rights in Times of COVID-19: The Rights to Education virtual panel discussion

    Learn about the impact on human rights and the rights to education during COVID-19.

    Read more...