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Johnie D. Smith

lawyer and judge, was born A. Macon Bolling in Indiana; the names of his parents and the exact date of his birth are unknown. He changed his name to Macon Bolling Allen by an act of the Massachusetts legislature on 26 January 1844. Details of Allen's early life and education are sparse and contradictory. His birth name is given in some sources as Malcolm B. Allen, and his birthplace as South Carolina. Evidence suggests that he lived in Maine and Massachusetts as a young man. Maine denied his initial application to the Maine bar because of allegations that he was not a state citizen, but he purportedly ran a Portland business before 1844. It is known that he read law in the Maine offices of two white abolitionist lawyers, Samuel E. Sewell and General Samuel Fessenden and that Fessenden promoted his admission to the Maine ...


Thomas M. Leonard

diplomat, lawyer, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Durham and Elizabeth Stephens. Two of his uncles, Clayton Durham and Jeremiah Durham, were noted clergymen who helped Bishop Richard Allen establish the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Durham, who could almost pass for white, studied in the Philadelphia public schools and graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth in 1876.

For five years after leaving high school Durham taught in Delaware and Pennsylvania. In 1881 he entered Towne Scientific School, a branch of the University of Pennsylvania, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in 1886 and a civil engineering degree in 1888. He held several positions during his college career, including reporter for the Philadelphia Times. He excelled as a newspaperman, and his unique abilities eventually led him to the assistant editorship of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin ...


Olive Hoogenboom

educator, lawyer, and diplomat, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Richard Wesley Greener, a seaman who was wounded during the Mexican War while serving aboard USS Princeton, and Mary Ann Le Brune. When he was nine, Greener and his parents moved to Boston but soon left for Cambridge, where he could attend “an unproscriptive school.” Greener's father, as chief steward of the George Raynes, had taken his son on a voyage to Liverpool but then abandoned the sea in 1853 for the California gold fields He was taken sick met with losses and was never heard from again When Greener was twelve years old he left school to help support his mother Although he quit one of his positions after an employer struck him those whom he met while knocking around in different occupations often helped educate him sharing their ...


Leila Kamali

British barrister who came to prominence in the Somerset case. Hargrave was born in London, and entered Lincoln's Inn as a student in 1760. Having written to the abolitionist Granville Sharp offering his services, Hargrave was the most prominent of the five lawyers who appeared on behalf of James Somerset, a slave who was brought from Boston, Massachusetts, then a British colony, to England in 1769. Somerset escaped, but was recaptured and imprisoned on a ship bound for Jamaica, also a British colony. At Sharp's intervention, hearings began in February 1772.

In this Hargrave s first appearance in court he argued that while colonial law might permit slavery those laws did not apply in England and further that English law did not allow for any person to enslave himself by contract Somerset was freed and Hargrave s argument was decisive in Lord Mansfield s ruling ...


Aimee Lee Cheek and William Cheek

political leader and intellectual, was born free in Louisa County, Virginia, the son of Ralph Quarles, a wealthy white slaveholding planter, and Lucy Jane Langston, a part-Native American, part-black slave emancipated by Quarles in 1806. After the deaths of both of their parents in 1834, Langston and his two brothers, well provided for by Quarles's will but unprotected by Virginia law, moved to Ohio. There Langston lived on a farm near Chillicothe with a cultured white southern family who had been friends of his father and who treated him as a son. He was in effect orphaned again in 1839 when a court hearing concluding that his guardian s impending move to slave state Missouri would imperil the boy s freedom and inheritance forced him to leave the family Subsequently he boarded in four different homes white and black in Chillicothe and Cincinnati worked ...


Patrick G. Williams

politician and lawyer, was born a slave on a plantation in Abbeville District, South Carolina. Of mixed race, he was probably the son of his owner, Samuel McGowan, and a slave woman, whose name is unknown. When McGowan entered Confederate service during the Civil War, Lee attended him in the camps and on the battlefield. Lee was wounded twice, at Second Manassas in 1862 and later near Hanover Junction, Virginia. After emancipation, he farmed in Abbeville District and then in Edgefield County, South Carolina, having settled in Hamburg. By 1870 Lee had accumulated at least $500 in real estate and $400 in personal property. Sometime before February 1872 he married a woman identified in legal documents as R. A. Lee; her maiden name is unknown.

Though not formally educated as a youth Lee had learned to read and evidently developed talents as a debater and orator fairly ...


Laura Murphy

writer, lawyer, and doctor, was born a slave to Doc and Rosa Lewis probably just prior to the Civil War. In his narrative he writes that he was born at a time when “reconciliation was futile and that disruption and secession hung like a cloud over the horizon.” The Lewis family was owned by Colonel D. S. Cage Sr. who on the day of Lewis s birth celebrated by recording the event in the family Bible with a short annotation that the birth would increase his wealth by one thousand dollars For his part Lewis was mostly oblivious to the fact that he was enslaved at all as he was relatively young when slavery was abolished The end of slavery was a confusing moment for all the people on Cage s plantation they were set free but encouraged to remain on the plantation to work for ...


Lois Baldwin Moreland

lawyer, was born in New York City, the daughter of Charlotte Augusta Burroughs, a native of Savannah, Georgia, and Charles Bennett Ray, a journalist, abolitionist, and minister of Indian, English, and African ancestry, who became editor of the Colored American, after Samuel Cornish. The Rays had seven children, two of whom died in adolescence. Charlotte was the youngest of the three surviving daughters, all of whom attended college like their brothers.

As a child, Charlotte attended the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1851 by the educator Myrtilla Miner, the private institution was one of the few schools that black girls could attend. By 1869 Ray was a-teacher at the Howard University Normal and Preparatory Department. In the evenings she studied law at Howard University, where she specialized in commercial law. As a senior, in February 1872 ...


Keila Grinberg

was born in August 1798 in Maragogipe, Brazil, a small town located in the interior of the northeast captaincy of Bahia. The youngest of six children, he was the son of Gaspar Pereira Rebouças, a Portuguese tailor, and Rita dos Santos, a Brazilian-born freed slave. After a childhood of poverty, Rebouças moved to Salvador, capital of the captaincy, where he worked in a notary’s office. It was probably there that he decided to study the law. Unable to afford the law school at Coimbra, the Portuguese institution where the majority of lawyers from the Portuguese-speaking world studied, Rebouças schooled himself and, in 1821, succeeded in getting a license from the Rio de Janeiro courts to work as a lawyer in Bahia. In 1847 the license was extended to the whole country.

In the 1820s Rebouças offered financial support and political connections to help his three older brothers graduate from ...


David H. Jr. Jackson

attorney and politician, was born somewhere in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee in the eastern part of the state as his parents moved from North Carolina to Mississippi. His father, Josiah, a member of the popular Settle family of Rockingham, North Carolina, was a wealthy planter. He owned Nancy Graves, Josiah's mother. However, unlike many white men in his position, he became devoted to Nancy and their eight children. After living in Mississippi for a few years, Settle's father eventually manumitted Nancy and their children and moved them to Hamilton, Ohio, in March 1856, since Mississippi law forbade newly emancipated blacks from residing in the state. The family settled in Hamilton, and he eventually married Graves in 1858 after his Northern neighbors protested his common law relationship He spent the summers with his family in Ohio but lived in Mississippi the rest of the ...


David Schroeder

educator, minister, lawyer, and justice, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the first of two children born to George Gilchrist Stewart, a blacksmith, and Anna Morris Stewart, a dressmaker, both free blacks. Stewart attended, but did not graduate from, Avery Normal Institute in the late 1860s, and he entered Howard University in 1869. He matriculated at the integrated University of South Carolina as a junior in 1874, and he graduated in December of the following year with bachelor of arts and bachelor of laws degrees. Stewart married Charlotte “Lottie” Pearl Harris in 1876, and they had three children: McCants (1877), Gilchrist (1879), and Carlotta (1881).

Stewart began his career practicing law in Sumter, and he taught math at the State Agricultural and Mechanical School in Orangeburg during the 1877–1878 school year. South Carolina congressman Robert ...


Alfred L. Brophy

businessman, lawyer, and civil rights litigant, was born John the Baptist (“J. B.”) Stradford (also sometimes spelled “Stratford”) probably in slavery at Versailles, Kentucky, the son of Julius Caesar Stradford. Little is known about Stradford's childhood. He studied at Oberlin College from 1882 to 1885 and Indianapolis Law School (later Indiana University–Indianapolis. He married Augusta, and they lived in Lawrenceberg, Kansas, among other places, before moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1899. Stradford owned and operated a rooming house, the Stradford Hotel, in Greenwood, the black section of Tulsa. Like other leaders of the Greenwood community (including fellow lawyers A.-J. Smitherman and Buck Colbert Franklin, the father of John Hope Franklin), Smitherman was concerned with aggressively preventing lynching and other violence. In 1909 Stradford challenged Oklahoma s statute that permitted unequal treatment on segregated railroad cars The statute permitted railroads to provide ...


Laura M. Calkins

lawyer and judge, was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, the son of John and Margaret Straker, of whom little is known. His father John Straker died when David was less than a year old, and his mother cared for him until he reached age seven, when she enrolled him in a private school. He entered the Central Public School in Bridgetown at age thirteen. Although he was also serving an apprenticeship as a tailor, Straker was deeply attracted to intellectual studies. With the support of Robert P. Elliott, principal of the Central Public School, Straker abandoned tailoring for full-time classical studies, including instruction in Latin and French under the tutelage of a linguist, the Reverend Joseph N. Durant. He also studied history and philosophy under R. R. Rawle principal of Codrington College an Anglican grammar school in Bridgetown which is now part of the University of ...


Eric Anderson

lawyer and member of Congress, was born in Bladen County, North Carolina, the son of Mary (maiden name unknown) and Wiley F. White. With one grandmother Irish and the other half American Indian, White jocularly described himself as no more than “mostly Negro.” Like most black boys in the antebellum South, he had little opportunity for education. A biographical sketch in the New York Tribune on 2 January 1898 put it in graphic understatement: “His early studies were much interrupted because of the necessity he was under to do manual labor on farms and in the forests, and it was not until he was seventeen years old that his serious education was actually begun.” After attending a combination of local schools, public and private, and saving one thousand dollars from farm work and cask making, White enrolled at Howard University.

White graduated in 1877 and returned to North ...


Jolie A. Jackson-Willett

civil rights attorney and political activist, was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Little is known of his parents, except that his father was a black physician. Wilson graduated from Atlanta University and then attended Boston University Law School, where he received a degree of Juris Doctor in 1883. He became one of the social and political black elite of Boston, who enjoyed economic privilege but who were also dedicated to improving the quality of life for all African Americans. An interesting note is that Butler Wilson was among the first Negro golfers in post–Civil War America. He played with Dr. George Grant, the inventor of the first patented golf tee (and one of the country's first Negro dentists), and with other civil rights activists and socially prominent blacks such as Archibald Grimké (later president of the Washington, D.C., branch of the NAACP) and the noted restaurateur Howard Lee ...