When George Lewis Ruffin graduated from Harvard Law School as the first black person in 1869, and later went on to become the first African America judge in Massachusetts, not many people would have thought that a day would come when the prestigious Law School would house over 60 students of color.
150 years later since George. L Ruffin etched his name on the wall of history, the class of 2021 makes history by becoming the largest classes of black students in Harvard Law’s history, with over 60 students from African Diaspora.
However, in an interview with Renwei Chung, the Diversity Columnist at Above the Law, Armani Madison who is one of the three organizers of the Harvard 1L photograph shoot (a picture which has since gone viral on the internet), explains what motivated him to organize the shot and what he expects people to take away from the picture.
“We wanted to find a way to celebrate the beauty and brilliance of our class and to inspire other students across the country with positive images of black students succeeding in higher education.
“We knew that our class was among the largest classes of black students in Harvard Law’s history, and we wanted to visually tell that story. Within this one photo are many incredible narratives and ambitions, and we wanted to share this with others.
Talking about what he hopes for people to take away from the picture, he would say:
“Although these pictures celebrate our class, the message goes beyond this. We intended for these pictures to inspire young people of color, and to impress upon them that people who look like them and have similar beginnings are surviving and thriving in the arena of higher education.
“Regardless of where students matriculate, we want to encourage students to dream big, show them that success is possible, and let them know that we are rooting for them.”
Armani Madison who studied Political Science at Brown University for undergrad was actively involved in campus activism and is interested in causes impacting young African Americans. He believes that the limited ability for young people of marginalized communities to access invested legal representation is a grave injustice and hope to confront the problem as a lawyer.
In the same interview, the second of the three organizers, Daniel Oyolu, who is born to a Nigerian parent gave this advice to others who are thinking about applying to law school:
“Law school is a significant investment so take your time and assess why you want to attend. Take advantage of the pre-law resources at your undergraduate institution and reach out to current and past law school students to learn more about the process and how to navigate it.
“Lastly, law school admission counselors are people just like you who are captivated by compelling stories. There is only one YOU in the world. Share that story.”
Also, Shane Fowler who is the third of the three organizers has this to say when asked what he would change about the society if he could:
“The economic inequality and wealth disparity in this country presents unique and alarming challenges for the future of our society. I would change how our society views those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder"
“Viewing the poor with compassion would lead to policy decisions that promote affordable healthcare, adequate working wages, and educational opportunities without the crippling student loan debt.”
Harvard Law School, which is known to be the oldest continuously law school in the United States of America, was founded in 1817. It is one of the preeminent centers of legal education in the world. Led by a diverse and dedicated group of faculty and legal scholars, HLS provides unmatched opportunities to study law and related disciplines in a rigorous and collaborative environment. It is also reputed to be one of the most prestigious in the world and ranked first by the QS world university ranking.
Reputedly, the prestigious law school which is said to have the largest law library in the world has birthed a good number of high profile African Americans since the early days of George Lewis Ruffin; notable among them is Barrack Obama of the class of 1991, who went on to become the first black president of the United States of America.