Who is ImeIme Umana? | The first black woman President of the Harvard Law Review

Former US president, Barack Obama made history as the first Black president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990.

27 years later, ImeIme Umana makes history as the first FEMALE black president of the Harvard Law Review.

At a time when women’s voices are increasingly getting louder in most parts of the society, this spells victory for women across the world and for African-Americans in the US.

On Thursday, the editorial board of the Harvard Law Review elected ImeIme Umana as its 131st President. Before we unveil ImeIme to you, we’d briefly explain what the Harvard Law Review is so you don’t get any misconceptions. You’re welcome!

The Harvard Law Review is a student-run organisation that publishes a journal of legal articles by professors, judges, practitioners and solicits reviews of important recent books from recognised experts. The articles regardless of the writer are subjected to a rigorous editorial process. It is released every month between November and June and each publication is usually about 2,500 pages. The Harvard Law Review website states its goals as “The journal is designed to be an effective research tool for practicing lawyers and students of the law. Also, it provides opportunities for Review members to develop their own editing and writing skills.” Past President, Barack Obama contributed to the January Issue of the Review with a 56-page commentary “The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform“.

Now that we’ve helped you see how celebrated the Harvard Law Review is, we expect you’d understand how important ImeIme Umana’s new role is.

Umana studied Government and African-American studies at Harvard College with her interest particularly on the intersection between government and African-American studies and the exploration of how stereotypes of black women are reproduced and reinforced in American Political discourse.

While in Harvard College, Umana was active in the Institute of Politics where she served as the chair of the Community Action Committee (CAC) and president of the Student Advisory Commitee. She was also on the board of Harvard Model Congress Boston, the nation’s oldest government simulation conference run exclusively by undergraduates at Harvard College. She graduated in 2014.

Currently, Umana is a joint degree candidate with Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she is expected to graduate in 2018.

During her summer breaks, Umana worked in various politically-inclined capacities. One summer, she interned as the Harvard Summer in Washington student coordinator, organizing political events for Harvard interns in D.C. In 2013, she worked as a criminal law investigative intern for the public defender’s office in D.C too. In an interview at the time, Umana said this internship opened her eyes to injustice. “It’s very easy to presume that you know a lot about urban communities and the troubles they face…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 and urban America.”

To emerge President of the Review, ImeIme Umana beat 11 other candidates of eight women and eight people of colour. Outgoing president, Michael Zuckerman has described Umana as “brilliant, thoughful and one of the most caring people I’ve ever met“. He’s convinced that the Law Review is in phenomenally good hands.

As president, Umana is expected to steer the legal conversation towards a richer direction and will oversee more than 90 student editors and permanent staff members who make up the Law Review and communicate with writers, including senior faculty members.

ImeIme Umana is a native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania but of Nigerian descent. She has described her election as a “great privilege”.

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