Charles J. Ogletree, a nationally recognized Harvard law professor and long-time mentor to President Obama, will be the featured speaker at the University of Rhode Island’s annual Black History Month lecture Feb. 5.
Ogletree, one of the country’s leading scholars on civil rights, will talk about the historic significance of Obama’s election and whether the country has made any progress to end racial discrimination.
“America widely celebrated the election of Barack Obama as the first black president in November 2008,” Ogletree says. “Five years later, it is important to address this historic moment and whether we are making progress in the effort to create a post-racial America.’’
Free and open to the public, the talk will start at 7 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Memorial Union Ballroom, followed by a signing of his latest book, "The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Race, Class and Crime in America," which documents Gates’ mistaken arrest for attempting to break into his own home in Cambridge, Mass. The 2009 incident made national headlines and sparked a debate on race relations that reached all the way to the White House.
A senior advisor to Obama and frequent commentator in the national press, Ogletree has written and spoken eloquently for decades about the issues of race, class and crime in America. He is the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the founding and executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at the law school.
Ogletree shares a personal relationship with Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, whom he taught and mentored when they were students at Harvard Law School in the late 1980s. In fact, Ogletree is scheduled to teach a reading group called “Understanding Obama” during the spring 2013 term at the law school.
Ogletree’s hour-long talk inaugurates URI’s newly endowed “Marlen Bodden Annual Lecture in Africana Studies,”’ which brings influential people to the URI campus to highlight and celebrate the contributions of prominent individuals of the African Diaspora.