Exactly two centuries ago, America’s first black lawyer, Macon B. Allen, was born in 1816. The 13th National Black Business Month begins August by pointing out that African-American lawyers have reached the pinnacle of the profession.
As the American Bar Association meets in San Francisco this week, black lawyers hold the the Presidency, serve as Attorney General of the United States and the largest state, California, the nation’s capital, District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, Secretary of Homeland Security, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and more than 100 appeal and district court judges.
Paulette Brown, a partner with Locke Lord, serves as president of the American Bar Association, and Benjamin Crump, a Tallahassee firm owner, is president of the National Bar Association.
Allen, who passed the bar in Maine in 1844, opened the first black law firm in 1845, became the first black justice of the peace in 1848 in Middlesex County and was elected a judge in Charleston, SC in 1874.
California’s first black lawyer, Oscar Hudson, passed the bar in 1912 and practiced from the Monadnock Building on Market Street in San Francisco.
The progress is considerable given that it took a century after Allen passed the law for the Supreme Court to affirm the right of African-Americans to attend law school in the Sweatt v. Painter case in 1950 because Heman Sweatt had been refused admission to the University of Texas.
Despite that late start, African-Americans are excelling in the most technical areas of the law. Darrell G. Mottley, a principal shareholder with Banner Witcoff, is editor in chief of Landslide, the ABA’s intellectual property journal and former president of the Washington, D.C. Bar.
To find an African-American attorney, visit the National Bar Association and its local chapters nationwide at nationalbar.org