week we are highlighting some of our amazing African-American
attorneys who have made significant accomplishments during their
numerous barriers and
to be both the first African American attorney to practice law in the
United States and to hold a judicial position,.
He passed the Maine bar exam in 1844, but racial prejudice in Boston
kept him from making a living as a lawyer, so instead, he embraced a
rigorous qualifying exam and became Justice of the Peace of Middlesex
County, Massachusetts in 1848. In doing so, Allen became the first
African American in the United States to hold a judicial position,
despite not being considered a U.S. citizen under the Constitution at
black female lawyer
the United States. She studied at the Institution for the Education
of Colored Youth in Washington, D.C., and went on to teach and study
law at Howard University. Upon admission to the District of Columbia
bar in 1872, Ray became not only the first woman admitted to practice
in the District of Columbia but also the first black woman licensed
to practice law in the United States.
Charlotte Ray’s career was cut short due to racial prejudice. She
opened a law office in the nation’s capital but was unable to
obtain enough clients to sustain her practice. She ultimately
returned to New York City to teach in the public school system.
as the Harvard Law Review’s first African American editor, the vice
dean of Howard University’s law school, and head of the NAACP’s
legal fight against “separate but equal” schools, culminating to
the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown
v. Board of Education.
his time at the NAACP, Houston accumulated legal precedents against
the “separate but equal” doctrine, specifically in cases related
to education for African Americans. Arguably his most significant
victory came in 1938 when the Supreme Court ruled in Missouri
ex rel. Gaines v. Canada that
it was unconstitutional to give African-American students funds to
attend an out-of-state law school instead of offering them admission
to the only law school in the state. He was widely known as the
mentor of Thurgood Marshall.
first African American female judge in the United States, Jane
her J.D. degree at the Yale Law School in 1931, where she was also
the first African American woman to graduate.
passing the New York bar exam, New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia
appointed Bolin to serve as Judge of the Domestic Relations Court in
1939. During her 40 years on the bench, she achieved two significant
civil rights reforms: she oversaw the assignment of probation
officers in the court system without regard for race or religion, and
she also championed a provision that publicly funded yet privately
owned child-care agencies must accept children without regard to
racial or ethnic background.
the first African American woman to be appointed as a federal judge.
She was the first African American woman to serve as a member of the
New York State Senate. Additionally, Motley was the first
woman to serve as Manhattan borough president.
was keenly involved in the civil rights movement, once visiting the
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in jail. She also sang freedom songs
in churches that had been bombed and spent a night under armed guard
with civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was later murdered.
legal contributions cannot be overlooked, as Judge Motley was a force
to be reckoned with in the courtroom. Her contributions to the battle
to extend civil rights for the disenfranchised is an invaluable
chapter of American jurisprudence.
the Montgomery bus boycott, Fred
vital role in the successful desegregation of Montgomery buses,
both as legal counsel and as a strategist. When Claudette Colvin and
Rosa Parks were criminally charged for refusing to give up their
seats to white passengers, Gray defended the women in court. He also
challenged the constitutionality of Alabama laws mandating
segregation on buses in Browder
which was affirmed in 1956 by the United States Supreme Court.
1970, Gray went to the Alabama State Legislature to serve as an
elected representative from Tuskegee. His election made him one of
the ﬁrst two African American public ofﬁcials to serve in the
legislature since the Reconstruction era. President Jimmy Carter
nominated Gray to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of
Alabama in 1979, but Gray was forced to withdraw his name from
consideration in light of massive opposition from conservative
God be the Glory for the contributions of these Amazing
African-American Attorneys and their pioneering spirit and