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Breitbart.com puts spotlight on Obama Harvard protest video

March 08, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • A screen capture of video from BuzzFeed.com shows Barack Obama speaking at a 1991 demonstration at Harvard in support of law professor Derrick Bell.
A screen capture of video from BuzzFeed.com shows Barack Obama speaking… (YouTube )

Reporting from Washington —

The video billed as Andrew Breitbart's last project is posted on the late conservative provocateur's website. It is so far provoking outrage from some corners and yawns from others.

The footage of a Harvard law student protest in 1991 captures then-Harvard Law Review president Barack Obama speaking in support of a professor who had launched a campaign to push the school to hire more minority women to its faculty.

Former Harvard professor Derrick Bell, the first black tenured professor at the institution, was eventually fired after refusing to come back from a leave over the issue of minority hiring. Bell was a proponent of critical race theory, an academic theory that looks at the law through the prism of race and power.

Breitbart's site describes Bell as a "radical" and a "racialist."

The flashback to Obama's law school years led us to dig up this piece from the Los Angeles Times archive. The profile of Obama -- written by Tammerlin Drummond in 1990 after Obama's election as the first black president of the prestigious law review -- touches on the tenor of the race relations at the school at the time:

"Yet some of Obama's peers question the motives of this second-year law student. They find it puzzling that despite Obama's openly progressive views on social issues, he has also won support from staunch conservatives. Ironically, he has come under the most criticism from fellow black students for being too conciliatory toward conservatives and not choosing more blacks to other top positions on the law review.

" 'He's willing to talk to them [the conservatives] and he has a grasp of where they are coming from, which is something a lot of blacks don't have and don't care to have,' said Christine Lee, a second-year law student who is black. 'His election was significant at the time, but now it's meaningless because he's becoming just like all the others (in the Establishment).' "

Bell is quoted in the piece:

"Outside the review, other blacks at Harvard are skeptical that Obama's appointment will change much at the Ivy League institution, where 180 out of 1,601 law students are black.

" 'While I applaud Obama's achievement, I guess I am not as hopeful for what this will mean for other blacks at Harvard,' said Derrick Bell, the school's first black tenured law professor.

" 'There is a strange character to this black achievement. When you have someone that reaches this high level, you find that he is just deemed exceptional and it does not change society's view of all of the rest.' "

Brietbart's site has posted just a snippet of the video. The future president, in strikingly familiar cadence, can be heard telling the crowd to "open your hearts and your minds" to Bell's words. The clip also appears to show Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree saying that "we hid" the video during the 2008 campaign. The headline reads: "Exclusive Obama: 'Open your hearts and your minds' to racialist prof."

The footage doesn't appear to be entirely exclusive. The website Buzzfeed has posted a longer clip of the protest -- minus the Ogletree comments -- offering more context on Obama's remarks.

Breitbart.com says there's more to come.

Original source: Breitbart.com puts spotlight on Obama Harvard protest video

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