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Video: Obama Protesting at Harvard in 1991

And sounding very presidential
Politics • Views: 30,789

Buzzfeed has posted video of Barack Obama from 1991, when he was president of the Harvard Law Review, speaking at Professor Derrick Bell’s protest for diversity. Andrew Kaczynski explains the context of this clip: At Harvard, Obama Dived Into Diversity Fight.

It was perhaps Barack Obama’s most intense immersion in the charged campus racial politics of the late 1980s and early 1990s: As President of the Harvard Law Review in the spring of his final year there, 1991, he aligned himself with Professor Derrick Bell’s dramatic protest for diversity on the faculty of Harvard Law School.

Bell was the first black tenured professor at the school, and a pioneer of “critical race theory,” which insisted, controversially, on reading issues of race and power into legal scholarship. His protest that spring was occasioned by Harvard’s denial of tenure to a black woman professor, Regina Austin, at a time when only three of the law school’s professors were black and only five women. He told Harvard he would take a leave of absence — a kind of academic strike — “until a woman of color is offered and accepted a tenured position on this faculty,” and he launched a hunger strike to dramatize his point.

Obama was a major figure on campus, the first black president of the Law Review. Some friends, in a prescient joke, just referred to him as “the first black president.” He had a reputation as a conciliatory figure, not a confrontational one like Bell.

“”How Obama would react to Derrick Bell’s protest was a matter of some interest,” New Yorker editor David Remnick wrote in his exploration of Obama and race, The Bridge.

It was a situation in which clear lines had been drawn, and Obama sided with Bell.

Could this be the BREITBARTOCALYPSE promised by the shiny-faced mini-Breitbarts earlier this week? If so, I sure hope Buzzfeed didn’t spoil it for them.

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