The First Time Obama Was Elected President

The future President’s election to lead the Harvard Law Review was covered extensively by the press.

Ebony Magazine 1990

Barack Obama’s election as President of the Harvard Law Review was a historic event for African Americans. A proud moment for people of color, the election garnered a ton of coverage from the back media. The following excerpts come from three publications Jet, Ebony, and Crisis Magazine, showing the extent the young law student and author was heralded in the black community.

A 1990 interview with Ebony Magazine reads:

Barack H. Obama has an arabic first name that means “by the grace of God,” which could exlain why he looks so humbly upon success. The Harvard University law student made history this year when he became the first Black President of the 104-year-old Harvard Law Review. “The fact that I’ve been selected shows a lot of progress, but it’s important that stories like mine aren’t used to say that everything is okay for Blacks,” says the son of a Kenyan economist. Obama has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University.

A February 1990 edition of Jet Magazine read:

Barack Obama, a 28-year-old second-year law student, was elected in balloting by last year’s editors. Obama, a native of Hawaii, said his election shouldn’t be seen as a sign social barriers have been broken down.

“I wouldn’t want people to see my election as a symbol there aren’t problems out there with the situation of African-Americans in society,” he said. “From experience I know that for everyone of me there are hundred or a thousand Black and minority students who are just as smart and just as talented and never get the opportunity.”

In 1995, the young Obama, now an accomplished author, reflected on his election, race, and his book in Crisis Magazine:

CRISIS: Will race relations get better?
OBAMA: Not in the short term. We’re moving out of a period of American preeminence on the world economic stage. Global competition means increasing economic uncertainty for the majority of Americans, black and white. Unfortunately, politicians in this country find it convenient to define these problems in racial terms— affirmative action, immigration and so on. It’s always easier to organize people around tribe than around principle.”

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