Law Professor Dorothy E. Roberts was born in 1956. In 1977, she graduated from Yale College, magna cum laude, where she was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Three years later, in 1980, Roberts graduated from Harvard Law School with her J.D., and for the next year she served as a law clerk for Hon. Constance Baker Motley in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. After her admission to the New York State Bar in 1981, Roberts worked as an associate in the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison until 1988.
From 1998 to 1994, Roberts was an Associate Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark, and from 1994 to 1998, she was a Professor of Law. While there, she served as the Faculty Graduation Speaker in both 1992 and 1996; visiting Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1994; fellow at the Harvard University Program in Ethics and the Professions from 1994 to 1995; and as visiting professor at Northwestern University School of Law in 1997. In 1998, she joined the faculty of Northwestern School of Law with a joint appointment as a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research; in 2002, she was named the Kirkland & Ellis Professor at the Northwestern University School of Law. While at Northwestern, Roberts served as visiting professor at Stanford Law School in 1998; as a Fulbright Fellow at the Centre for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad & Tobago from 2002 to 2003; and as the Bacon-Kilkenny Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Fordham University School of Law in 2006.
Recipient of the 1998 Radcliffe Graduate Society Medal and the 1999 Freedom of Choice Award from the Chicago Abortion Fund, Roberts published her first book, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, in 1997. The book earned her a 1998 Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America. In 2001, she published her second book, Shattered Bonds: The Color Of Child Welfare, which received research awards from the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community and the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. Recipient of the 2007 Leadership Award from the Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, in 2009 Roberts earned the Family Defender Award from the Family Defense Center and the YWomen Leadership Award from the YWCA Evanston/North Shore.
Roberts was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 27, 2010.