Decades before most Americans knew his name, the New York Times ran its first profile of Barack Obama.
On February 6, 1990, it announced (in a headline that’s now pretty dated), “First Black Elected to Head Harvard’s Law Review,” and explained that the 28-year-old’s new role was considered the “highest student position” at the school.
Of course, no one was using the term back them, but Obama went out of his way to make clear that his election shouldn’t be interpreted as ushering in a post-racial era on the law review staff or in the country.
”The fact that I’ve been elected shows a lot of progress,” he told the Times. ”It’s encouraging.” But, he added, “it’s important that stories like mine aren’t used to say that everything is O.K. for blacks. You have to remember that for every one of me, there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don’t get a chance.”
“IT’S IMPORTANT THAT STORIES LIKE MINE AREN’T USED TO SAY THAT EVERYTHING IS O.K. FOR BLACKS.”
There’s a hint in the piece that the news was fraught with tension over whether Obama truly deserved his new role.
The Times quotes former law review president Peter Yu, who says Obama’s election ”was a choice on the merits, but others may read something into it.” For anyone who was around in 2008, that should sound familiar.