Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Social Consciousness: Race and Gender

BOND: Now, does your leadership ability find itself in your ability to have other people follow your vision, or in your ability to articulate a broad agenda for a movement, or in a mix of these?

OGLETREE: It's really the latter more than the former. There is some of the former where people follow my vision. But I don't want to be the Pied Piper. What I want to do is to say, "The door is open. The opportunities are broad. Grab any one of them and move forward."

When I ran for National BLSA president in 1977, BLSA was ten years old and I was elected but never had a black woman. It didn't make sense to me that we had this organization representing black woman and men in law schools and no women were elected. Well, when I finished my year, Theresa Cropper was the first African American woman to ever lead BLSA. And did this start a trend? The next six were all black women. And the overwhelming majority, since '78 to the year 2004 have been black women. We have to make sure that we expand, and the vision is to say, "The leadership is open to everybody."

When I was a public defender, I took a lot of talented black students who wanted to go to firms elsewhere. I said, "You can make a difference right here," and I brought students from around the country to work there. When I left, going into teaching, a lot of people left with me. Randy Stone is a professor at the University of Chicago. Kim Taylor-Thompson and her husband Tony Thompson are professors at NYU, as is Randy Hertz, another person who worked with me. Amani [Angela] Davis is a professor at the American University of Washington College of Law.

It's happened around the country, in the same sense with those who've gone on to practice in law firms. So my idea is to open up opportunities and not just to hold them. Public television -- I was one of the first, sort of, noted African Americans to do a lot of moderated public television. And I asked Kim Taylor to do that and she's done it extremely well. Kathleen Sullivan, a white woman from Stanford who deaned there, and my whole idea was that I opened up the door to do something, but the goal is to say, "I don't have all the ideas. I don't even have the best ideas." So, I'm looking, always, to be replaced and to have somebody else generate new ideas, new visions, and new opportunities.