Campus & Community

Learning while leading at Harvard Law Review

Michael Thomas Jr. is the third African-American man elected president of the Harvard Law Review. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer On a March evening, Michael Thomas Jr. gave a special tour of Gannett House to his dad and two brothers, who were visiting to see the place where Barack Obama, J.D. ’91, first made national headlines.

In 1990, Obama became the first black leader of the Harvard Law Review , which was founded in 1887 and is based at Gannett House. Thomas’ relatives delighted in seeing traces of Obama in the building, including a group photo of editors with the future president in the center.

But they were also there to celebrate Thomas, who had recently become the third African-American man to be elected president of the esteemed legal journal.

“My family didn’t understand the significance of it, at first,” Thomas said in an interview. “I don’t have lawyers in my family. When I told them that Obama had been president of the Law Review, they were very happy for me.”

Born in the Caribbean state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., by working-class parents, Thomas, J.D. ’19, is the fourth African-American to head the Review. The second was David Panton, J.D. ’95, who was born and raised in Jamaica. The third was Imelme Umana, J.D. ’18, the first black woman to hold the position. African-Americans account for roughly 5 percent of the more than 1,700 students currently enrolled at Harvard Law School (HLS).

Edited and managed by students, the Review publishes cutting-edge legal articles written by professors, judges, and practitioners, and serves as both a research tool for attorneys and a means for student-editors to sharpen their research and writing skills. Among the publication’s alumni are Supreme Court justices, attorneys general, cabinet secretaries, and government officials.

Students apply to become editors of the Law Review at the end of their first year at HLS and are chosen through a combination of grades and scores in a writing competition. Every year, 92 student-editors elect their president.Thomas views his post mainly […]

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