Andrew Kaczynski of Buzzfeed discovered this little gem of a video, in which then-law student Barack Obama spoke at a protest in favour of Harvard Law Professor Derrick Bell.
Kaczynski explains what the protest was all about.
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 colour 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.
Probably the most amazing thing about it is the fact that Obama’s speech-giving style is so little changed since his days at Harvard. Obama has the same soaring cadence, dramatic pauses, and light-hearted jokes that you find in almost every one of his speeches.
Here’s the video:
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