Post Date: August 24, 2005

This September, Harvard Law School will hold its second Celebration of Black Alumni, bringing hundreds of black Harvard Law graduates to campus for a range of programming focusing on national and international legal issues. Highlights of the three-day event include a keynote address by Sen. Barack Obama, a 1991 Harvard Law graduate, and speeches by Harvard President Lawrence Summers and Law School Dean Elena Kagan. The event will take place on the HLS campus September 16-18.

“Our Celebration of Black Alumni will bring together some of the most talented and accomplished members of the Harvard Law community,” said Sharon E. Jones, a co-chair of the event and a 1982 HLS graduate. “With the exception of Howard Law School in Washington, D.C., Harvard Law School has produced more black lawyers than any other law school in the country. These remarkable men and women have made deep and far-reaching contributions to society. Coming together this fall to discuss issues of common interest is sure to be inspiring.”

In addition to speeches by Obama, Summers and Kagan, there will be a series of presentations and panel discussions that cover a range of topics.

“Our first celebration in 2000, conceived by Professor David Wilkins, highlighted the special relationship between Harvard Law School and its black students and alumni,” said co-chair Neil Brown, a 1978 HLS graduate. “I am proud to be connected with this event that celebrates the pioneering role Harvard Law School, an institution founded in part on the proceeds of a benefactor’s sale of slaveholdings, has played in the education of black attorneys, and the extraordinary accomplishments of it’s black graduates.”

A highlight of the weekend will be the presentation of the Harvard Law School Medal of Freedom to Randall Robinson, a 1970 Harvard Law graduate and the founder and former president of TransAfrica. Robinson and TransAfrica were instrumental in keeping the apartheid regime in South Africa on the national and international agenda. In 2000, the Medal of Freedom was given to members of the Brown v. Board of Education litigation team who were reunited at the first Celebration of Black Alumni.

“I am honored to host this extraordinary event,” said Dean Elena Kagan, the Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of Law and a 1986 Harvard Law graduate. “The impact that our African-American alumni have had on the world is extraordinary by any measure. I hope that today’s students—of all races and backgrounds—will be inspired by the people and events associated with this celebration.”

The 2005 celebration coincides with the September 15 launch of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, a new research and policy initiative at Harvard. HLS Professor Charles Ogletree, Jr. will serve as director, and the September 15 opening will feature speakers and panels that discuss the mission of the new institute. Professors Ogletree and Wilkins will serve as honorary co-chairs of the 2005 celebration.

The first celebration, held at the law school in September 2000, drew more than 600 alumni from around the world. In addition to practicing lawyers, attendees included elected officials, judges, academics, business leaders and philanthropists.

Additional information about the panels and speakers is available on the CBA Program of Events.