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Harold A. McDougall
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Harold A. McDougall is a professor of law at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He was a civil rights organizer and voter registrant in his early years and served the NAACP from 1994 to 1997, as executive vice president of a local branch, as Washington bureau chief and as senior policy consultant. He served on the National Governing Board of Common Cause, the Board of Directors of the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars (Fulbright Scholars Program) and the Board of Trustees of the Paul J. Aicher Foundation (Study Circles Resource Center). He has consulted for the Kellogg, Kettering, and Village Foundations, and the Montgomery County, M.D., County Executive’s Office.

Professor McDougall specializes in the areas of urban social and economic development, civil rights, and the workings of state, local, and federal government. He has written numerous articles, as well as two books exploring these themes.

Black Baltimore: A New Theory of Community (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993) proposes a new approach to the renovation and revitalization of community civic culture. African Civil Rights in the Age of Obama: A History and a Handbook (, 2010) covers “trouble spots” like racial profiling, hate crimes, discrimination against consumers, employment discrimination, voting rights, housing discrimination and discrimination in public education. It also looks at citizen action and access to local government.

Professor McDougall’s present work takes two forms, one international, and one domestic.

Since a 1999 Fulbright Fellowship to the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, he has focused on sustainable development and citizen engagement in the developing world, teaching and writing in this area. Between 2003 and 2011, he taught courses on human rights and sustainable development to students at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica and at the University of the Western Cape, in South Africa. He has also given speeches on these subjects at the U.S. Educational Foundation in New Delhi, India in 2007 and at the Pro-Vice Chancellor’s annual convocation of the University of South Africa (UNISA) in Pretoria in 2008.

Locally, he has founded the “Invisible College,” a nonprofit organization teaching “public citizenship” to middle and high school students. One offshoot, a Boys II Men program, has been taught at Takoma Park Middle School in Montgomery County, M.D., by Howard Law School students since 2008. A “Girls2Women” program started in 2009.

His most recent publications include Reconstructing African American Cultural DNA: An Action Research Agenda for Howard University, 55 Howard Law Journal 63 (2011), and A Civic Infrastructure for the Occupy Movement (forthcoming, 2012). The former considers culture as an element of problem-solving. The latter looks at how “base communities,” linked together, might empower citizens to engage in ongoing dialogue with business and government.

Entries by Harold A. McDougall

Orlando for President

(0) Comments | Posted June 20, 2016 | 3:36 PM

It was a perfect moment. Mid-afternon, June 15, 2016. CNN.

Wolf Blitzer had his team of talking heads ready to bloviate on Trump versus Hillary in the context of the Orlando shooting. They had just seen a video clip of the Donald, posturing and gesticulating, the consummate blowhard, bully, and...

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What Happens When the Protests Are Over?

(2) Comments | Posted June 1, 2015 | 7:00 AM

Recent events in Baltimore are a reminder of the need to build "civic infrastructure" in inner-city communities like Sandtown, the neighborhood in which Freddie Gray lived, a neighborhood I studied closely when writing Black Baltimore: A New Theory of Community, more than 20 years...

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'American Spring'?

(4) Comments | Posted December 10, 2014 | 8:59 PM

As in the Arab Spring, young people like the Dream Defenders and Millennial Activists United, protesting police practices in the black community, have created a "free space" in the national political continuum. What will fill that space when the protests inevitably end?...

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Empathy Depletion: An Environmental Hazard

(0) Comments | Posted June 17, 2014 | 2:53 PM

It seems more and more clear that sustainable development requires that we look closely not only at how we treat the environment hut at how we treat each other.
Jeremy Rifkin, in his 2009 book The Empathic Civilization, provided a new perspective on...

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The Democrats Need a Tea Party

(193) Comments | Posted November 27, 2013 | 3:21 PM

The Tea Party pushes the Republicans to the right. The Democrats need a party to push them to the left. Not the old left of big government and high taxes on the middle class, but a new left of participatory democracy, economic cooperatives, and diversity, not...

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What Feminism Can Teach the Black Movement (And Vice Versa)

(4) Comments | Posted September 16, 2013 | 3:19 PM

Within a week of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, my daughter in college shared some readings from her gender and women's studies textbook, Feminist Frontiers. Some of the most important aspects of the book involve a closer look at how social...

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I Have A Dream: Bring Back SNCC

(2) Comments | Posted August 28, 2013 | 2:12 PM

Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), of Black Power fame, when head of SNCC, observes in his autobiography that the March on Washington marked an important departure for the Civil Rights Movement. But not the one you might think, being celebrated this week -- Martin Luther King's Dream speech, the...

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Guns, Machismo, Martin and Zimmerman

(209) Comments | Posted July 17, 2013 | 12:43 PM

I am very sorry to say that I was not surprised by the Zimmerman acquittal. Saddened, disappointed, frustrated, outraged, worried, even somewhat resigned. But not surprised. A white male accused of killing a black male is the least likely of all American defendants to be convicted. In states...

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A Civic Infrastructure for Arab Spring

(5) Comments | Posted July 2, 2013 | 11:38 AM

I was going to leave this alone. I understand that the Islamic World is going through a transformation at least as powerful, and as profound, as the Protestant Reformation. Then 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for advocating that Muslim girls in Pakistan be...

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Social Security IOUs

(8) Comments | Posted December 21, 2012 | 11:54 AM

Right-wingers describe Social Security as an "entitlement," meaning its beneficiaries receive public funds transferred from others. It's actually a pension plan, and the federal government is the trustee.

The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund uses the Social Security taxes you and I pay to...

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Build the Party or Build the Community?

(1) Comments | Posted November 7, 2012 | 9:55 AM

Commentators have said a social movement brought President Obama a second term. But can we count on that in 2016, without Obama's "star" quality? Participants in that social movement -- minorities, women, young people, social liberals and greens -- have a choice.

They can try...

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Let's Have Town Halls After the Elections

(2) Comments | Posted October 18, 2012 | 10:23 AM

We were supposed to hear from "the people" Tuesday night, but the questioners at the town hall-style presidential debate were hardly noticed. They were only a supporting cast for Governor Romney, President Obama, and the moderator Cindy Crowley.

With a network of citizens' assemblies in every congressional district,...

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The Cult of Presidential Personality

(0) Comments | Posted October 9, 2012 | 12:20 PM

The American constitutional experiment separated executive from legislative power, creating a president who was elected separately from Congress.

The idea was to reduce the power of both, but that seems to have backfired. Over time, the scale of the presidential election itself has given the office a kind of...

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Closing the Achievement Gap: An Obama Signature Program?

(5) Comments | Posted October 1, 2012 | 12:39 PM

I posted earlier that President Obama needs to create a sense of agency and engagement among the American people as we face depressing economic and social times. A signature program to close our achievement gaps would be a good way to do that. I say gaps because there...

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Conventional Thinking

(2) Comments | Posted September 14, 2012 | 7:14 PM

The Republican and Democratic Party conventions are now behind us, and we might ask ourselves, "Are we better off now than we were two weeks ago?"

The Republican Party tried to paper over the nastiness of their primary season with empty and abstract rhetoric about jobs and the economy....

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Obama vs. Romney: "The Choice"

(27) Comments | Posted July 29, 2012 | 7:24 PM

I typically ignore political campaign commercials. It's time to go to the refrigerator, or hit the mute button, or change the channel. But the other day I saw an Obama ad featuring the president himself. Speaking simply and directly, he discussed the choice American voters have in November, contrasting his...

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Cultural DNA: Bringing Civic Infrastructure to Life

(2) Comments | Posted July 10, 2012 | 9:31 AM

This post continues my previous discussion of Citizens' Assemblies as a way of aggregating civic capital into "civic infrastructure." Here we look at how the culture of each Assembly participant might animate the work of the whole.

Culture isn't just the way we sing and dance and the...

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The Citizen's Assembly: A Civic Infrastructure for Progressive Social Change

(4) Comments | Posted June 29, 2012 | 10:49 AM

At present, windows of opportunity for real change civil society protesters create are quickly filled by forces that are more organized. Egypt's present standoff between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military, for example, occurred in the vacuum created by protesters who were sufficiently organized to bring Mubarak down but insufficiently...

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