President Obama & Charles Hamilton Houston, pt II – a guest post by socioprof.

My friend and fellow denizen of Ta-Nehisi Coate’s Golden Horde, the lovely and delightful socioprof, took President Obama’s 21 year old “Black History Minute” and moved the ball forward in a comment that evening in the Open Thread – and her comment is so full of win, that I had to make a post of it. Thanks, socioprof!


There is such a beautiful (and long) thread here, socioprof wrote after watching the clip.

The man that our President lauds some 20 years ago is Charles Hamilton Houston. Houston attends Harvard Law and is the first Black person named to the Harvard Law Review.

He later trains Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP lawyer who (along with Houston and others from the NAACP) successfully argued before the Supreme Court, convincing Warren and his Court that separate was indeed unequal, and was ultimately the first Black person appointed to the Supreme Court.

Marshall has a young, female law clerk while serving on the high court. After Houston’s death, there was a professorship named at Harvard in his honor. Marshall’s young, female law clerk – Elena Kagan – held that professorship.

In a parallel stream, a Harvard law professor, Charles Ogletree, teaches a Black woman from Chicago’s South Side named Michelle Robinson, and then some skinny kid, also from Chicago – though by way of Hawaii and Indonesia – with a funny name, famously big ears, and a White Kansan mother and a Black Kenyan father. That kid with the name and ears goes on to become the first Black person to serve as president of the Harvard Law Review.

Ogletree continues to mentor the kid and goes on to found the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law with the support of Harvard Law Dean, Elena Kagan.

Five years later, that kid with the ears is President of these United States and appoints Kagan to the Supreme Court.


I’m sorry, sometimes American history is just a little bit grand.

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  1. dmf

     /  February 2, 2012

    lovely and a nice reminder that a few determined people can change the world

  2. socioprof

     /  February 2, 2012


    I’m honored! Thank you, woman!