Elie Mystal

On this date in 1978, Elie Mystal Jr. was born to Elizabeth and Elie Mystal Sr. His father was a Haitian immigrant who became the first elected African-American elected to the legislature in Suffolk County, N.Y.

Mystal Jr. moved to Indiana for his final year of high school after his parents’ separation in the 1990s. He earned a bachelor’s in political science and government from Harvard University in 2000 and a Harvard law degree in 2003. He started writing about politics and popular culture for City Hall News and the New York Press, the latter an alternative weekly published from 1988 to 2011.

After working as an associate for the New York-based international firm of Debevoise and Plimpton, Mystal quit practicing law in 2008 to become an editor and writer/blogger for the website Above the Law, where he wrote on topics related to politics, culture and the law. Above the Law once described him as an “online provocateur.”

Since 2018 he has been a correspondent for The Nation and his columns have also been published in the New York Daily News, New York Times and other outlets. He’s been a commentator on politically divergent forums such as MSNBC and Fox News.

Mystal met his future wife, Christine Nyereyegona, at Harvard. They married in 2004, the year she earned her law degree, and have two children.

In 2022 he published “Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution.” He commented later, “We act like this thing was etched in stone by the finger of God, when actually it was hotly contested and debated, scrawled out over a couple of weeks in the summer in Philadelphia in 1787, with a bunch of rich, white politicians making deals with each other.” (Salon, March 23, 2022)

He has been a guest on FFRF’s radio and TV talk shows and was the 2023 recipient of FFRF’s Clarence Darrow Award. Accepting the award, he said America is “devolving into a brutal theocracy … being led by the Supreme Court, which acts more like an unelected clergy than an impartial panel of judges.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation