Law

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall

Born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908, Thurgood Marshall was the grandson of a slave. His father, William Marshall, instilled in him from youth an appreciation for the United States Constitution and the rule of law. After completing high school in 1925, Thurgood followed his brother, William Aubrey Marshall, at the historically black Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

His classmates at Lincoln included a distinguished group of future Black leaders such as the poet and author Langston Hughes, the future President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, and musician Cab Calloway. Just before graduation, he married his first wife, Vivian “Buster” Burey. Their twenty-five year marriage ended with her death from cancer in 1955.  Continue reading

13th Amendment

13th AamendmentPassed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States.

AMENDMENT XIII

SECTION 1.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

SECTION 2.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Edith Sampson

Edith Sampson

Edith Sampson

On October 13, 1898, Edith Sampson was born in Pittsburgh, the first black woman elected judge to a municipal court. She was born Edith Spurlock, one of seven children.

Her father, Louis Spurlock, earned $75 per month as a shipping clerk in a cleaning, pressing, and dyeing business. Her mother, Elizabeth Spurlock, worked at home making buckram hat frames and twisting switches of false hair.

Edith graduated from Peabody High School, and three years later married Rufus Sampson, a field agent for the Tuskegee Institute. She also attended the New York School of Social Work. There, one of her instructors was George W. Kirchwey, also a professor at Columbia University Law School. After distinguishing herself in his criminology class, he told her she had the talent to be a lawyer.  Continue reading

Jane Bolin

Jane Bolin

In 1939 Jane Matilda Bolin was appointed to the New York City Court of Domestic Relations by Mayor Fiorello Laguardia, becoming the first Black woman judge.

She was born, Jane Matilda Bolin on April 11, 1908. She was the youngest of four children. Her father was Gaius Charles Bolin. He was the first African American (also part Native American) to attend Williams College, in the Berkeshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts. Upon graduation, he established a law practice in Poughkeepsie, NY. His practice saw great success, and he quickly rose to prominence in the community, as well as in surrounding areas.

He was Poughkeepsie’s first black lawyer, and the first black president of the Dutchess County Bar Association. Naturally looked upon as a leader in the black community, G. Charles also helped found the Dutchess County branch of the NAACP. While solidly establishing his roots in Poughkeepsie, he met and married Matilda Emery, an English immigrant. Matilda died when Jane was only eight years old.  Continue reading

Charlotte Ray

Charlotte Ray was the first African American female lawyer in the United States

Born on January 13, 1850, in New York City. In 1872, Charlotte E. Ray became the first female African-American lawyer in the United States. She grew up in a large family as one of seven children. Her father, Charles, was a minister and an activist in the abolitionist movement.Ray attended the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington, D.C., during the early 1860s. The institution was one of only a handful of places that offered a quality education to young, African-American women. By the end of the 1860s, she had become a teacher at the preparatory school associated with Howard University. Ray then applied to the university’s law degree program using only her initials, C. E., to disguise her gender. The trick worked, and Ray gained admittance to the program. She excelled at her studies at the university, especially in corporate law.  Continue reading

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