Charles Ogletree

Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.
Born December 31, 1952 (1952-12-31) (age 58)
Merced, California
Nationality  United States
Ethnicity African American
Education A.B., M.A., J.D. 1978
Alma mater Stanford University, Harvard Law School
Occupation Professor of law
Employer Harvard Law School
Title Jesse Climenko Professor
Spouse Pamela Barnes, 1975
Children Charles III (about 1975), Rashida (1979)
Parents Charles Sr. and Willie Mae (Reed) Ogletree

Charles J. Ogletree (born December 31, 1952 in Merced, California) is Jesse Climenko Professor at Harvard Law School, the founder of the school's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, and the author of numerous books on legal topics.



Ogletree was born to farm workers in central California. He earned both his B.A. (1974, with distinction) and M.A. (1975) in political science from Stanford University and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1978.


Lawyer and professor

District of Columbia Public Defender Service, Washington, D.C., staff attorney, then training director, trial chief, and deputy director, until 1985
Jessamy, Fort & Ogletree, Washington, DC, partner, beginning 1985
former counsel to Jordan, Keys & Jessamy, Washington, DC
University of Oregon Law School, former Wayne Morse Chair of Law and Politics
Stanford University, former scholar-in-residence
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA,
professor at Harvard Law School, 1992--
currently Jesse Climenko Professor of Law and vice dean for clinical programs
Cochair of Reparations Coordinating Committee

Media appearances and contributions

Moderator of television programs, including

State of the Black Union
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community
(with others) Ethics in America[3]
Hard Drugs, Hard Choices, Liberty and Limits: Whose Law, Whose Order?[3]
Credibility in the Newsroom
Race to Execution, 2006
Our Genes, about 2003[3]
Beyond Black and White[3]
Liberty & Limits: Whose Law, Whose Order?[3]
That Delicate Balance II: Our Bill of Rights[3]
Other PBS broadcasts.[3][4]
  • Guest on radio & television programs, including
This Week with David Brinkley
McNeil-Lehrer News Hour
Today Show
Good Morning America
Larry King Live
Cochran and Company
Burden of Proof
Tavis Smiley
America's Black Forum
Meet the Press[3]
NBC news radio, legal commentator on O. J. Simpson murder case
  • Contributor to periodicals, including
New Crisis
Public Utilities Fortnightly
Harvard Law Review

Community and professional affairs

Stanford University (member, board of trustees)
Stanford Fund (former national chairman)
University of the District of Columbia (chairman, board of trustees)
B.E.L.L. Foundation (chairman of the board)
Benjamin Banneker Charter School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, (founding member and trustee)
Merced, California, public schools (founder of scholarships)
National Leadership 500 (participant in seminars)
National Mentor Program (member, advisory committee)
Society of American Law Teachers (board member);
National Legal Aid and Defender Association (defender committee member)
Southern Prisoners Defense Committee (chair, board of directors)
Black Law Students Association (former national president)

Stature and public life

Ogletree taught both Barack and Michelle Obama at Harvard; he has remained close to Mr. Obama throughout his political career.[5] He appeared briefly on the joint Daily Show-Colbert Report election night coverage of the 2008 presidential election, making a few remarks about his personal knowledge of the Obamas.

Professor Ogletree has written opinion pieces on the state of race in the United States for major publications.[6] Ogletree also served as the moderator for a panel discussion on civil rights in baseball on March 28, 2008 that accompanied the second annual MLB civil rights exhibition game the following day between the New York Mets and the Chicago White Sox.[7]

On July 21, 2009 Professor Ogletree issued a statement in response to the arrest of his Harvard colleague and client, Professor Henry Gates, whose arrest at his own home became a major news story about the nexus of politics, police power, and race that summer.[8] Professor Ogletree later wrote a book about the events entitled The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Race, Class and Crime in America.

After the September, 2009 death of Senator Ted Kennedy, Ogletree's name was suggested as one of the possible appointees to Kennedy's seat as a "placeholder" until a special election could be held. Other names rumored to be in contention were Michael Dukakis and several people who had held important Massachusetts or national Democratic positions: Paul G. Kirk (a former chair of the Democratic National Committee), Nick Littlefield (a former Kennedy chief of staff), Robert Travaglini, and Shannon O'Brien.[9]


National Conference on Black Lawyers People's Lawyer of the Year Award
Man of Vision Award, Museum of Afro-American History (Boston, MA)
Albert Sacks-Paul A. Freund Award for Teaching Excellence, Harvard Law School, 1993
Ellis Island Medal of Honor, 1995
Ruffin-Fenwick Trailblazer Award
International House of Blues Foundation Martin Luther King, Jr., Drum Major Award
Justice Louis Brandeis Medal for Public Service
21st Century Achievement Award, Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts
named among National Law Journal list of America's 100 Most Influential Lawyers, 2000[10]
Equal Justice Award, National Bar Association
Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit, Washington Bar Association, 2001
named among Savoy magazine list of 100 Most Influential Blacks in America, 2003[10]
honorary doctorates of law from North Carolina Central University, New England School of Law, Tougaloo College, Amherst College, Wilberforce University, and University of Miami School of Law
Award of Merit, Public Defender Service Association, 1990
Personal Achievement Award, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Black Network, 1990
Nelson Mandela Service Award, National Black Law Students Association, 1991
National Bar Association, Presidential Award for The Renaissance Man of the Legal Profession, 1996
Washington Bar Association, Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit, 2001
William Robert Ming Advocacy Award, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 2004


In 2004 Harvard disciplined Ogletree for plagiarizing six paragraphs from Yale scholar Jack Balkin's book, What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said in his own book, All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education.[11] Ogletree apologized, saying that he "made a serious mistake during the editorial process of completing this book, and delegated too much responsibility to others during the final editing process.” Former Harvard President Derek C. Bok concluded, "There was no deliberate wrongdoing at all...He marshaled his assistants and parceled out the work and in the process some quotation marks got lost.”[10][12]


  • The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Race, Class and Crime in America (Palgrave-Macmillan 2010)
  • When Law Fails (Charles J. Ogletree & Austin Sarat eds.)
  • From Lynch Mobs to the Killing State: Race and the Death Penalty in America (ed. with Austin Sarat, New York University Press 2006)
  • All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education (W.W. Norton & Company 2004)
  • Brown at 50: The Unfinished Legacy (ed. with Deborah L. Rhode, American Bar Association 2004)
  • Beyond the Rodney King Story: An Investigation of Police Conduct in Minority Communities, (ed. with others, Northeastern University Press Boston, Massachusetts 1995)
  • Contributor to books, including
Faith of Our Fathers: African-American Men Reflect on Fatherhood ed. by Andre C. Willis
Reason and Passion: Justice Brennan's Enduring Influence
Lift Every Voice and Sing, 2001
The Rehnquist Court: Judicial Activism on the Right, 2002.
Ogletree, Charles J. "The Rehnquist Revolution in Criminal Procedure" in The Rehnquist Court (Herman Schwartz ed., Hill and Wang Publishing, 2002).
Ogletree, Charles J. "The Challenge of Race and Education" in How to Make Black America Better (Smiley ed., 2001).
Ogletree, Charles J. "Privileges and Immunities for Basketball Stars and Other Sport Heroes?" in Basketball Jones (Boyd & Shropshire eds., 2000).
Ogletree, Charles J. "The Tireless Warrior for Racial Justice" in Reason (Rosenkranz & Schwartz eds., 1998).
  • Articles
Ogletree, Charles J. "Commentary: All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown vs. Board of Education," 66 Montana Law Review 283 (2005).
Ogletree, Charles J. "All Deliberate Speed?: Brown's Past and Brown's Future," 107 West Virginia Law Review 625 (2005).
Ogletree, Charles J. "The Current Reparations Debate," 5 University of California Davis Law Review 36 (2003).
Ogletree, Charles J. "Does America Owe Us? (Point-Counterpoint with E.R. Shipp, on the Topic of Reparations)," Essence Magazine, February 2003.
Ogletree, Charles J. "The Case for Reparations," USA Weekend Magazine, February 2003.
Ogletree, Charles J. "Repairing the Past: New Efforts in the Reparations Debate in America," 2 Harvard Civil Rights- Civil Liberties Law Review 38 (2003).
Ogletree, Charles J. "Reparations for the Children of Slaves: Litigating the Issues," 2 University of Menphis Law Review 33 (2003).
Ogletree, Charles J. "The Right's and Wrongs of e-Privacy," Optimize Magazine, March 2002.
Ogletree, Charles J. "From Pretoria to Philadelphia: Judge Higginbotham's Racial Justice Jurisprudence on South Africa and the United States," 20 Yale Law and Policy Review 383 (2002).
Ogletree, Charles J. "The Challenge of Providing Legal Representation in the United States, South Africa and China," 7 Washington University Journal of Law and Policy 47 (2002).
Ogletree, Charles J. "Judicial Activism or Judicial Necessity: D.C. Court's Criminal Justice Legacy," 90 Georgetown Law Journal 685 (2002).
Ogletree, Charles J. "Black Man's Burden: Race and the Death Penalty in America," 81 Oregon Law Review 15 (2002).
Ogletree, Charles J. "A Diverse Workforce in the 21st Century: Harvard's Challenge," Harvard Community Resource, Spring 2002.
Ogletree, Charles J. "Fighting a Just War Without an Unjust Loss of Freedom,", October 11, 2001.
Ogletree, Charles J. "Unequal Justice for Al Sharpton,", August 21, 2001.
Ogletree, Charles J. "A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.: A Reciprocal Legacy of Scholarship and Advocacy," 53 Rutgers Law Review 665 (2001).
Ogletree, Charles J. "An Ode to St. Peter: Professor Peter M. Cicchino," 50 American University Law Review 591 (2001).
Ogletree, Charles J. "America's Schizophrenic Immigration Policy: Race, Class, and Reason," 41 Boston College Law Review 755 (2000).
Ogletree, Charles J. "A Tribute to Gary Bellow: The Visionary Clinical Scholar," 114 Harvard Law Review 420 (2000).
Ogletree, Charles J. "A. Leon Higginbotham's Civil Rights Legacy," 34 Harvard Civil-Rights Civil Liberties Law Review 1 (1999).
Ogletree, Charles J. "Personal and Professional Integrity in the Legal Profession: Lessons from President Clinton and Kenneth Starr," 56 Washington & Lee Law Review 851 (1999).
Ogletree, Charles J. "Matthew O. Tobriner Memorial Lecture: The Burdens and Benefits of Race in America," 25 Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 219 (1998).
Ogletree, Charles J. "The President's Role in Bridging America's Racial Divide," 15 Thomas M. Cooley Law Review 11 (1998).
Ogletree, Charles J. "The Conference on Critical Race Theory: When the Rainbow Is Not Enough," 31 New England Law Review 705 (1997).
Ogletree, Charles J. "Race Relations and Conflicts in the United States The Limits of Hate Speech: Does Race Matter?" 32 Gonzaga Law Review 491 (1997).
  • Articles in a Newspaper
Ogletree, Charles J. "Court Should Stand By Bake Ruling," Boston Globe, April 1, 2003, Op-Ed.
Ogletree, Charles J. "The Future of Admissions and Race," Boston Globe, May 20, 2002, Op-Ed.
Ogletree, Charles J. "Litigating the Legacy of Slavery," New York Times, March 31, 2002, Op-Ed.
Ogletree, Charles J. "The U.S. Needn't Shrink from Durban," Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2001, Op-Ed.
Ogletree, Charles J. "The Real David Brock," Boston Globe, June 30, 2001, Op-Ed.
Ogletree, Charles J. "The Court's Tarnished Reputation," Boston Globe, December 12, 2000, Op-Ed.
Ogletree, Charles J. "Why Has the G.O.P. Kept Blacks Off Federal Courts?" New York Times, August 18, 2000, Op-Ed.
  • Reports or Studies
Ogletree, Charles J. "Judicial Excellence, Judicial Diversity: The African American Federal Judges Report" (2003).
  • Presentations
Ogletree, Charles J. A Call to Arms: Responding to W.E.B. DuBois's Challenge to Wilberforce, Wilberforce University Founder's Day Luncheon (February 11, 2003).
Ogletree, Charles J. Grinnell College Special Convocation Address (January 22, 2003).
Ogletree, Charles J. Remembering Dr. King's Legacy: Promoting Diversity and Promoting Patriotism, King County Bar Association MLK Luncheon (January 17, 2003).
Ogletree, Charles J. Baum Lecture, University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne (November 2002).
Ogletree, Charles J. University of California-Davis Barrett Lecture: The Current Reparations Debate, University of California-Davis Law School (October 22, 2002).
Ogletree, Charles J. Why Reparations? Why Now?, Buck Franklin Memorial Lecture and Conference on Reparations, University of Tulsa College of Law, Oklahoma (September 25, 2002).
Ogletree, Charles J. Northeastern University Valerie Gordon Human Rights Lecture, Northeastern University School of Law (April 2002).
Ogletree, Charles J. Sobota Lecture, Albany School of Law (Spring 2002).
Ogletree, Charles J. Mangels Lecturship, University of Washington Graduate School (Spring 2002).


  1. ^ Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2009. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009. Document Number: H1000171721. Fee (via Fairfax County Public Library). Revised 05/24/2007. Retrieved 2009-01-06.
  2. ^ "Charles Ogletree, Jr." Contemporary Black Biography. Vol. 47. Thomson Gale, 2005. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009. Document Number: K1606002934. Fee (Fairfax County Public Library). Revised 01/01/2005. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Our Genes / Our Choices . Genes On Trial . Meet The Participants". Public Broadcasting Service. about January 2003. Retrieved 2009-01-05. "Charles J. Ogletree, a former public defender, is the Jesse Climenko Professor at Harvard Law School. He has appeared as a commentator on such programs as Nightline and Meet the Press. A prominent legal theorist, he has made a reputation in taking a hard look at complex constitutional issues of law and in criminal justice issues. He has worked with the Fred Friendly Seminars for many years and was the moderator for Beyond Black and White: Affirmative Action in America; Liberty & Limits: Whose Law, Whose Order?; Ethics in America; Hard Drugs, Hard Choices; and That Delicate Balance II: Our Bill of Rights." 
  4. ^ "NBA Live!". Retrieved 2006-09-03. 
  5. ^ Interview with Ogletree on his relationship with the Obamas in the Harvard Law Record
  6. ^ Ogletree, Charles (2002-08-18). "The Case for Reparations". USA Weekend. Retrieved 2006-09-03. [dead link]
  7. ^ Chicago White Sox, Major League Baseball, New York Mets -
  8. ^ - Police were out of line.
  9. ^ U.S. Kennedy Successor, September 18, 2009. Associated Press.
  10. ^ a b c Marks, Stephen (2004-09-13). "Ogletree Faces Discipline for Copying Text". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2006-09-03. 
  11. ^ Rimer, Sara (November 24, 2004). "When Plagiarism's Shadow Falls on Admired Scholars". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  12. ^ Bombardieri, Marcella; David Mehegan (September 9, 2004). "Ogletree admits lifted passages; Harvard professor cites editing mistake". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-01-05. "Ogletree said he will be subject to disciplinary action from Harvard, but refused to say what the discipline would is not the policy of the school to comment on disciplinary action." 

Further reading

  • Charles Ogletree (Harvard faculty biography) retrieved May 24, 2006.
  • Charles Ogletree, Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s Lawyer, An Experienced Litigator, Joel Zand, FindLaw, July 22, 2009
  • Booklist, April 1, 2004, Vernon Ford, review of All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of "Brown v. Board of Education," p. 1336.
  • Choice, May, 1995, D.O. Friedrichs, review of Beyond the Rodney King Story: An Investigation of Police Conduct in Minority Communities, p. 1510.
  • Kliatt, March, 2006, Patricia Moore, review of All Deliberate Speed, p. 40.
  • Massachusetts Law Review, fall, 2004, Brownlow M. Speer, review of All Deliberate Speed, p. 103.
  • New Crisis, May-June, 2002, Todd Steven Burroughs, "Charles Ogletree on Reparations," p. 9.
  • New Republic, June 7, 1993, Ruth Shalit, "Hate Story: Racial Strife at Law School," p. 11.
  • New York Review of Books, September 23, 2004, Kathleen Sullivan, review of All Deliberate Speed, p. 47.
  • Publishers Weekly, October 31, 1994, review of Beyond the Rodney King Story, p. 49; March 22, 2004, review of All Deliberate Speed, p. 77.
  • Lawrence-Lightfoot, Sara. I've Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation, Addison-Wesley, 1994.
  • Bay State Banner, April 28, 1994, p. 17.
  • Boston Globe, September 9, 2004.
  • Jet, June 28, 1993, p. 10.
  • Wall Street Journal, December 4, 1992.

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