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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 ...


Werner Stangl

jurist and notable in the viceroyalty of Nueva Granada (present-day Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama), was born in Portobelo, Panama, the oldest son of Pedro Antonio de Ayarza. He had two brothers, Pedro Crisólogo and Antonio Nicanor. The existing biographic data on José Ponciano are tenuous and largely based on a series of petitions to the Spanish king presented by his father Pedro.

Ponciano’s father was a Portobelo merchant of considerable wealth, despite his status as a pardo (free person of darker skin color). He served as captain of the town’s pardo militia for decades. His commercial activity was long-distance trade, which rested in the hands of a very small group and was heavily dependent on mutual trust, most often including forms of kinship.

Although this degree of success was remarkable, pardos were generally the most upwardly mobile social group in colonial Nueva Granada However their integration could not ...


Russell Hopley

jurist, was born in al-Qayrawan in southern Tunisia to a family that originated among the Banu Birzal tribe of Zenata Berbers. His full name was Abu ʾl-Qasim b. Ah.mad b. Muh.ammad al-Balawi al-Qayrawani al-Burzuli.

Burzuli received his early education in al Qayrawan where he pursued a traditional course of study in the Islamic sciences and showed considerable promise in the field of Islamic law Central to his training in jurisprudence was the eminent theologian Ibn ʿArafa d 1401 who played a significant role in the elaboration of the Maliki school of Islamic law in North Africa in the fourteenth century Burzuli likewise received a firm grounding in the various fields of Islamic learning at the hand of several influential scholars from al Qayrawan among them Abu Muh ammad al Shabibi d 1380 an important jurist with whom Burzuli served a lengthy apprenticeship and from whom he learned the skill of ...


Trevor Hall

His father, Giovanni da Ca’ da Mosto, and mother, Giovanna Querini, married in 1428, and the couple had four sons and two daughters. Cadamosto came from a Venetian family of some standing. His reason for renown is that he was the first European to sail from Portugal to West Africa and back, to write a long travel narrative of his maritime voyages. He also described the Islamic West African kingdoms he visited during the the 1450s. Cadamosto wrote his narrative many years after the voyages to West Africa, and there is evidence that later historical events where incorporated into his narrative—a process historians call “feedback.” Thus, Cadamosto’s dates and chronology have been called into question by scholars. However, the Venetian must be taken seriously because he presented some of the first eye-witness descriptions of West Africa and Portuguese voyages to the tropics during the fifteenth century.

Since the Middle ...


Timothy J. McMillan

slave, janitor, magistrate, teacher, principal, and the first black elected official in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was born Wilson Swain at the home of University of North Carolina president David Swain in Chapel Hill. His father was (Doctor) November Caldwell, a slave of the former university president Joseph Caldwell; his mother was Rosa Burgess, a slave of Swain's. Under the law and practice of slavery in North Carolina, children took on the surnames of their owners, not of their fathers. As a child Wilson Swain was a personal servant to Robert Swain, his owner's son, and then as a young teenager he was an apprentice to the University of North Carolina's chief gardener, Mr. Paxton. In violation of law and custom, but due, no doubt, to the university atmosphere, he was taught to read and write.

As an adult Wilson Swain served the University of North Carolina ...


Steven J. Niven

lieutenant‐governor of South Carolina and the leading nineteenth century African American freemason, was born in Philadelphia to parents whose names have not been recorded. His father was a free person of color from Haiti and his mother was a white Englishwoman. Gleaves was educated in Philadelphia and New Orleans, and as a young man worked as a steward on steamboats along the Mississippi River.

Gleaves first came to prominence as an organizer of Masonic lodges in Pennsylvania and Ohio. While black freemasonry had gained a foothold under Prince Hall in Massachusetts in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, by the 1840s, Pennsylvania was the center of black fraternalism, and Gleaves would become one of the Order's leading evangelists before the Civil War. In 1846 the year he was first initiated as a brother mason the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons appointed Gleaves a District Deputy Grand ...


Jennifer Larson

judge, politician, and activist, was born in Richmond, Virginia. He was the oldest son of George W. Ruffin, a barber, and Nancy Lewis, both free African Americans. Because the Ruffins valued education highly, they hired a tutor to teach their eight children English literature, as well as Latin and the classics, despite the financial strain of this instruction's cost. The Ruffins owned a small amount of property in Richmond, but they decided to abandon it and move to Boston in 1853 after the Virginia legislature prohibited African Americans from learning to read In Boston George W worked as a barber as he had in Richmond while Nancy made a profitable living selling fish and fruit that her relatives shipped to her from Richmond The eight Ruffin children entered the segregated Boston public school system At the Chapman Hall school nineteen year old George excelled ...


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 ...


Benjamin R. Justesen

attorney and the first black federal judge in the United States, was born in Orange, Virginia, a freeborn son of the former slaves William Henry Harrison Terrell and Louisa Ann (Coleman) Terrell. During the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, the Terrell family moved to Washington, DC, where Harrison Terrell was a member of the White House domestic staff and Robert Terrell was educated in the city's public schools.

Robert Terrell went on to preparatory school at Lawrence Academy, Groton, Massachusetts, before graduating from Harvard University with a bachelor's degree in 1884 the third African American to do so and the first to graduate cum laude from Harvard While at Harvard he supported himself as a clerk at the U S Customs House in Boston Returning to Washington he taught classes at the segregated Preparatory High School for Colored Youth later called M Street High School then ...


Steven J. Niven

lawyer, politician, and judge, was born William James Whipper, probably in Glenville, Pennsylvania, one of the four children of Benjamin P. Whipper, who later became a minister in Chatham, Canada. There is some uncertainty about the name of William's mother, which in certain sources is given as Mary Ann (maiden name unknown), and in others is recorded as Sophia Patterson. Part of the confusion may have been caused by William J. Whipper himself, who often claimed that his father was the famed Underground Railroad conductor William Whipper who was in fact Benjamin s brother Not long after his family moved from Pennsylvania to Chatham Canada William appears to have returned to the United States By the late 1850s he was working as a law clerk in Detroit Michigan and later passed the bar exam in that state having earlier failed it in Ohio Around ...


William C. Hine

politician and jurist, was born in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Little is known of his parents except that his father was a farmer and that the family moved to Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, during Wright's childhood. Wright attended Lancasterian University in Ithaca, New York, and later studied law at the offices of Bently, Fith, and Bently in Montrose, Pennsylvania. He also taught school and read law in the office of Judge O. Collins of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Wright attended the 1864 national black convention in Syracuse, New York, that opposed slavery, supported universal manhood suffrage, and endorsed equality before the law.

At the end of the Civil War in April 1865, the American Missionary Association sent Wright to Beaufort, South Carolina, where he taught adult freedmen and soldiers of the 128th U.S. Colored Troops. In November 1865 he served as a delegate to the Colored Peoples Convention in Charleston Disappointed ...


Justin Stearns

Moroccan judge and theologian, was born in 1631 near Sefrou in the Middle Atlas into the ait Yusi tribe, which had shortly before moved north from the south of Morocco. When still young, his mother died, and this event is said to have deeply affected al-Yusi and to have pushed him to seek solace in study. His first teacher was affiliated with a local Sufi lodge and taught him the Qurʾan and grammar. When still young, al-Yusi came across a hagiographic account of the famed Hanbali scholar Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 1201), which had a profound effect on him and prompted him to seek out other teachers.

Al-Yusi’s itinerant education took place for the most part in the south of Morocco (Sus). He studied in Marrakech with the jurist and theologian Abu Mahdi ʿIsa al-Suktani (d. 1652) before traveling south to Taroudant, Ilig, and Tamanart. In 1650 not ...