For the first time in its 130 years, the prestigious Harvard Law Review has elected a black woman as president.
Imelme Umana, a Nigerian-American from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, will oversee the student-run organization that publishes the prestigious journal of legal scholarship.
Student editors at the Harvard Law Review make all editorial and organizational decisions and, together with a professional business staff of three, carry out day-to-day operations, its website explains. It is independent of Harvard Law School, where the law review students attend.
Umana holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College, where she majored in African-American Studies and Government and worked at Harvard’s Hip-Hop Archive & Research Institute. Now a student at Harvard Law School, Umana expects to graduate with a law degree in 2018.
She also worked as a criminal law investigative intern for the public defender’s office in Washington, D.C. Umana told the Harvard Crimson that working for the public defender opened her eyes to society’s injustices.
“It’s very easy to presume that you know a lot about urban communities and the troubles they face,” she told the Crimson. “I’ve watched all of these documentaries, and I’ve written all these papers, but the internship, really, in just a few days, showed me how little I actually did know about the realities of the situation [of] urban America.
“It taught me sensitivity in teaching but it also taught me, like the public defender’s service, to not assume certain backgrounds, certain reactions, certain lived experiences.”
The Harvard Law Review is one of the oldest student-edited law reviews in the United States. It published its first issue on April 15, 1887. The review is published monthly from November through June, with the November issue dedicated to covering the previous year’s term of the Supreme Court of the United States.
The elite student association was led by white presidents until 1988, when Raj Marphatia was elected.
U.S. President Barack Obama became the first African-American president of the journal, when he was elected to lead the student body in 1991.