Tanya K. Hernández

Tanya K. Hernández standing in her office
Photos by Chris Taggart
Tanya K. Hernández typography
If you didn’t know that Professor Tanya K. Hernández was an expert in antidiscrimination law and critical race theory, spending a few minutes inside her eighth-floor office would make it clear. Hernández, who became the Archibald R. Murray Chair in 2017 after teaching at George Washington, Rutgers, and St. John’s law schools, has made her cozy office into a showcase of what’s important to her. From books she’s authored to seminal works about the experiences of people of color to a portrait of a celebrated Afro–Puerto Rican baseball player, the office reflects her many interests and scholarship and is dotted with personal touches that make students and colleagues feel at home.

BY Elizabeth Moore

floral teapot with two matching tea cups
Teatime. To put students at ease, Hernández often reaches for the ceramic tea set she bought at a church yard sale. She has been an official mentor for students, including those in the Stein Scholars Program and the REAL Scholars program. “Instead of offering them coffee from the pantry, I do it in an actual tea set,” she says. “For tea people, I steep the tea and it feels special. It feels like a less oppressive space. It’s a little moment about just relaxing for a second.”
shelves of books on race and racism
Collector’s Editions. Hernández has amassed a large collection of books on race and racism that includes several editions autographed by the authors, such as The 1619 Project, signed by Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families—and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World, signed by Dorothy Roberts.
shelf of books
Author! Author! Over the years, Hernández has contributed to many scholarly and other works, and those books and anthologies live on the top shelf of the bookcase. The third shelf is reserved for her own books, including her most recent work, Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality.
painting of Afro-Caribbean baseball player Roberto Clement holding up his hat
“The Great One.” Roberto Clemente, the legendary Afro-Caribbean baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is “near and dear to my heart,” says Hernández. Born in Puerto Rico, he died in 1972 when his plane crashed delivering aid to Nicaragua after an earthquake. “He was someone who very early on was a public figure who used his platform to elevate social justice.” The poster is a reproduction of a painting by Pablo Marcano Garcia, an Afro-Caribbean artist Hernández met at a Fordham event. “Clemente inspired me to be focused on what matters for the collective.”
wooden statue of Afro-Brazilian Candomblé deity Omolu
Soothing Presence. During a semester studying abroad in Brazil, Hernández picked up a slim wooden statue of the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé deity Omolu, who is known for his healing powers. When she later worked for Brooklyn Legal Services, in the HIV Unit, she kept the statue in her office as she prepared trusts and wills for clients. “He protects people from illness and disease,” says Hernández.
a Brown University stole draped off the back of a chair
Keepsake. It’s easy to miss, but in her office is a graduation stole with a special significance to Hernández. A graduate of Brown University, she returned to her alma mater in 2022 for her son Alesandro’s COVID 19–delayed 2020 graduation, where she was presented with a special multicolored stole with a kente-cloth pattern to wear to the Black Student Union dinner. At the ceremony, Hernández placed a similar graduation stole on her son’s shoulders.