Loretta J.


African Americans
Civil Rights Movement
Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault
Electoral Politics
Human Rights
Programs for High School Students
Racism/Racial Justice
Reproductive Justice
Summer Institute Instructors
U.S. History
Violence Against Women
Women & Feminism
Women in the Global Economy
Youth/Student Activism

Loretta J. Ross is a MacArthur 'Genius" Grant Recipient, nationally-recognized author and expert on racism and racial justice, women's rights, and human rights. Her work emphasizes the intersectionality of social justice issues and how intersectionality can fuel transformation.

Ross is a visiting associate professor at Smith College (Northampton, MA) in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender, teaching courses on white supremacy, race and culture in America, human rights, and calling in the calling out culture.

She has co-written three books on reproductive justice: Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice, winner of the Outstanding Book Award by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights; Reproductive Justice: An Introduction, a first-of-its-kind primer that provides a comprehensive yet succinct description of the field and puts the lives and lived experience of women of color at the center of the book; and Radical Reproductive Justice: Foundations, Theory, Practice, Critique. Her current book, Calling In the Calling Out Culture, is forthcoming in 2021.

Ross appears regularly in major media outlets about the issues of our day. She was recently featured in a New York Times piece, "What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called Them In?"

She was a co-founder and the National Coordinator, from 2005 to 2012, of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, a network of women of color and allied organizations that organize women of color in the reproductive justice movement. Other leadership positions have included:

  • National Co-Director of the April 25, 2004 March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C., the largest protest march in U.S. history with more than one million participants.
  • Founder and Executive Director of the National Center for Human Rights Education (NCHRE)
  • Program Research Director at the Center for Democratic Renewal/National Anti-Klan Network where she led projects researching hate groups and working against all forms of bigotry with universities, schools, and community groups
  • Founder of the Women of Color Program for the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the 1980s
  • Leading many women of color delegations to international conferences on women's issues and human rights.

Ross is a rape survivor, was forced to raise a child born of incest, and is a survivor of sterilization abuse. She is a model of how to survive and thrive despite the traumas that disproportionately affect low-income women of color. She is a nationally-recognized trainer on using the transformative power of Reproductive Justice to build a Human Rights movement that includes everyone.

Ross serves as a consultant for Smith College, collecting oral histories of feminists of color for the Sophia Smith Collection which also contains her personal archives.

She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and holds an honorary Doctorate of Civil Law degree awarded in 2003 from Arcadia University and a second honorary doctorate degree awarded from Smith College in 2013. She is pursuing a PhD in Women’s Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. She is a mother, grandmother and a great-grandmother.




"The talk was electrifying! My brain, and my heart, exploded. I could have spent hours getting inspired and informed by listening to Ms. Ross. What a perfect speaker for International Women's Day and for this week at Oberlin."

— Oberlin College Faculty

"Ms. Ross was absolutely excellent. Our students loved her, our staff loved her. She is welcome back to our events any time!"

— Emilie Rabbitt, Women’s Issue Director, United Council of UW Students

"Loretta did a fantastic job for our conference. I know our staffed absolutely loved her!"
- Annette Saenz, Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, WA

"I wanted to send a special 'Thank you' on behalf of NYSCASA to Ms. Ross for her insightful keynote speech at our conference. She spoke right to the heart of the matter on issues that many of our agencies are facing. She also provided an excellent framework for doing our work through the lens of a human rights perspective."
- Tobi Downing, New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Thank you again, from the bottom of our collective hearts, for visiting the University of Washington and for your brilliant, inspiring commencement speech!  I mentioned your talk to several other deans at UW—and they asked if it was possible to receive copies of your talk.  Several students and faculty members who heard about your talk also asked if a copy or video of it could be made available.
Thank you for your visit and for all you do in this world!
— Edwina S. Uehara, Professor and Ballmer Endowed Dean in Social Work, Univ of Washington

"Your discussion on reproductive justice and the various ways in which reproductive justice matters – beyond simply a focus on abortion – was a crucial contribution to the Colloquium’s objective of expanding the discourse around gender inequalities this Fall.

There were so many moments in your in-class interaction and at the public lecture that stood out for us, but we especially appreciated the way in which you highlighted the close connection between reproductive concerns and social justice. We also greatly appreciated how you invited us to (re)think who the feminist movement belongs to and how we can create solidarities in crucial ways by laying claim to the universality of human rights (especially by addressing fragilities around class, in addition to race). We are grateful for the reminder that ‘laws don’t lead, but follow social movements.’

— Smita Ramnarain, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Rhode Island



Calling In the Calling Out Culture
We are facing a tumultuous future in this country, with the rise of neo-fascism scaffolded by the Republicans in the context of neo-liberalism enabled by the Democrats. Fighting against oppression and injustice are the dues we pay for the privilege of being conscious and we are honored to be able to challenge it with great responsibility. We begin to build a unified and strategic human rights movement that weaves our strengths together, that uses our differences as a platform for modeling a positive future built on justice and the politics of love, rather than a return to the past based on the politics of fear and prejudice. However, to create this movement we need to make a commitment to recognize and support each other – calling people in rather than calling them out, a prerequisite for building a united movement for human rights. 

Sexual Assault on Campus
When Loretta Ross was 16 years old, she was raped on a college campus. The experience inspired her to volunteer at the Washington DC Rape Crisis Center in 1979, the first rape crisis center in the country. Yet 35 years later, rape and sexual harassment on campus are still widespread. One in five women are sexually assaulted in college. Yet most colleges and universities have yet to forge a consistent and strong response to this crime again women.

 Speaking out as the issue permeates the headlines,  Ross is a powerful voice on behalf of women's human rights. She urges us to start a new conversation about campus rape and assault which does not blame young women for their clothes or drinking, and counters the narrative that sanitizes these brutal realities through the schools' media machines. 

Reproductive Justice as Human Rights
Reproductive Justice moves beyond choice and access to abortion. The term was coined by African American women, including Ross, in 1994, following the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt. It is a broader term that uses a human rights framework and also looks at reproductive oppression, sterilization abuse, immigration restrictions, gun culture, rape culture, the prison-to-school pipeline, etc. This presentation covers all aspects of Reproductive Justice which is  becoming the primary framework new voices in the movement are using to move beyond the paralyzing debates of abortion politics.

Appropriate Whiteness
Appropriate Whiteness is a lecture series based on Ross' experience doing anti-Klan and anti-white supremacy organizing. It is directed at young people who want to move beyond the hurtful, hardened racial patterns of the past and live more intersectional lives. It explores how technology can play a role in easing and crossing rigid boundaries. The lecture addresses situations of racial awkwardness and fears of "messing up." It helps normalize discussions of race with a frank analysis of what to do and not to do in moving forward difficult dialogues.