Elizabeth Warren as Harvard Law’s “First Woman of Color”

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May 16 2012 2:12 PM

Elizabeth Warren as Harvard Law’s “First Woman of Color”

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Some are suggesting that Elizabeth Warren got ahead in her hiring at Harvard Law School because she was the department's first "woman of color," for her Native American roots.

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Was Elizabeth Warren the first “woman of color” to be hired to Harvard Law School back in 1995?

Politico reports that according to a 1997 piece in the Fordham Law Review, the current candidate for senate in Massachusetts—who has Native American roots—was touted by the school as part of an effort to increase diversity among faculty. The piece reflects similar statements in an article in the Harvard Crimson from 1996 that describes the professor-turned-consumer advocate as a Native American. That has some suggesting that Warren’s hiring wasn’t all about merit.

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But Warren’s camp has fired back, saying that her family claiming Native American heritage is old news, and that she wasn’t aware that Harvard was ever billing her that way.

“Everyone who hired Elizabeth has been clear that she was hired because she was a great teacher, not because of that heritage,” said Warren spokesperson Alethea Harney. Maybe those who still have questions about merit versus heritage can be answered by her score on the most important metric of higher education: Rate My Professors.

Video produced by Paca Thomas.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.

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