Imelme Umana has been elected as the first Black female president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. With her recent election, Umana, who is from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is the first Black woman to hold the position in the 130 years of the independent student group at Harvard Law School, reports Wbur.
Umana holds a Bachelor of Arts 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.
In her career, Umana also worked as a Criminal Law Investigative intern for the public defender’s office in Washington, D.C. In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, Umana said the experience she gained while working for the public defender opened her eyes to the injustices present in larger society.
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“It’s very easy to presume that you know a lot about urban communities and the troubles they face. I read ‘The New Jim Crow’ and I read ‘Sister Citizen’ and I read ‘Killing the Black Body,’ and 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.
“I didn’t realize [civics] could be so personal and so alive for a lot of the students,” Umana said, adding, “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, however, did not get a non-White minority leader until 1988 (more than a century after it was formed), when Raj Marphatia became the president of the Harvard Law Review.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama also made history when he became the first African-American president of the journal, when he was elected to lead the student body in 1991. Now more than 25 years later, Umana is set to lead the body as its first Black female president.