About the Holder Initiative


Our Mission

From the vantage of his historic tenure as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States, Eric H. Holder Jr. CC’73, LAW’76, shaped and bore witness to some of the most critical issues facing this nation and the world. Holder sought to ensure equal treatment under the law, endeavored to safeguard the rights and freedoms of all individuals, and attempted to remedy corrosive mistrust between citizens and government. His tenure was dedicated to strengthening the bedrock pillars that uphold all human communities — truth, justice, and law.

The Eric H. Holder Jr. Initiative for Civil and Political Rights will carve out a distinctive experience for Columbia University’s undergraduate students. Building on the foundational knowledge nurtured in the Core Curriculum, the Holder Initiative will sponsor courses, public events, student internships, and fellowships for practitioners that extend the themes and questions of the Core into a contemporary context.

Focusing on what Holder describes as “the duties, the rights, and the weighty responsibilities of American citizenship,” the Holder Initiative will foster scholarly inquiry, policy debate, and public engagement that draws on the principles of the Core. Discouraging retreat into what Holder calls “the quiet prejudice of inaction,” the Holder Initiative will challenge students to ‘live the Core’ by encouraging civic action on and beyond campus.

“We do ourselves and our great nation a grave disservice… whenever we trade the noisy discord of honest, tough, and vigorous debate for the quiet prejudice of inaction – and the cold silence of consent.”
– Eric H. Holder, May 17, 2014

Building on Columbia’s longstanding commitment to advancing knowledge and learning on significant contemporary issues for the public good, the Holder Initiative will ensure that Columbia becomes the world’s most innovative academic institution for the study of historical, contemporary, and future visions of justice. The Holder Initiative will bring the same integrity, passion, and commitment to addressing contemporary social problems that Holder brought into public awareness during his nearly four decades in public service.


Eric Holder traces his long career in public service to his foundational learning at Columbia College. The Core Curriculum course Contemporary Civilization was, in his own words, “instrumental in [his] life,” and he now wants to “marry [his] professional work to [his] love of this institution.” The Holder Initiative will do just that by providing undergraduate students with courses, internships, and mentoring that will connect the classic questions of the Core to today’s pressing issues of justice.

Eric Holder's 1973 Columbia yearbook photo

1973 Columbian, Call# CP C722, University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.

The Holder Initiative will further build upon Holder’s legacy of social justice by hosting an array of public programs, including seminars, conferences, and symposia that bring together experts in academe, business, law, and public policy.

Our signature event series, “The American Voter Project, explores the state of voting in the US today. Each themed event will bring together scholars, politicians, journalists, activists, artists, students, and community members to discuss a pressing challenge of American voting, concluding with a capstone panel on the State of One Person One Vote.

Undergraduate student leaders will create student-centered events in conjunction with the American Voter Project, and at all of our events we look forward to heeding Holder's call for honest, tough, and vigorous debate on these topics.

We hope that you will join us in this exciting mission to put theory into practice for a more just world.

Ways to Get Involved

A photo of Columbia students at graduation

Take a Course

Enroll in a course offered by the Holder Initiative to further develop your understanding of the Core.

A photo of students on campus encouraging civic engagement

Attend an Event

Get involved with contemporary social justice issues both on and off campus.

A photo of a Columbia student's protest sign

Make a Donation

Join a community of donors supporting the Holder Initiative mission to achieve justice.