Voting Rights Act – 1965

Voting Rights Act Signing

On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. Forty-seven years later, the U.S. is embroiled in a controversy over Voter ID laws that have been passed in several states, and which critics say could prevent millions of Americans from voting this year. Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson sent out a press statement today, making just that point. The statement read:

“Today, we commemorate the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, a historic milestone in the Civil Rights Movement. So many people died so that we could have the right to vote. I never thought that in my lifetime we would have to fight again for our Constitutional right to vote. (more…)

Legal Defense and Education Fund

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is the country’s first and foremost civil and human rights law firm.  Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, who subsequently became the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, LDF was launched at a time when the nation’s aspirations for equality and due process of law were stifled by widespread state-sponsored racial inequality.  From that era to the present, LDF’s mission has always been transformative: to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society.

As the legal arm of the civil rights movement, LDF has a tradition of expert legal advocacy in the Supreme Court and other courts across the nation.  LDF’s victories established the foundations for the civil rights that all Americans enjoy today.  In its first two decades, LDF undertook a coordinated legal assault against officially enforced public school segregation.  (more…)

Reuben V. Anderson

Reuben V. Anderson

Reuben V. Anderson

Reuben V. Anderson was the 1st Black appointed to Mississippi Supreme Court.

African American civil rights lawyer, Anderson attended Tougaloo College and graduated from Ole Miss law school in 1967. Upon his graduation, he began working as the Mississippi associate counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. until 1975. From 1981 to 1985, he served as judge in Hinds County Circuit Court.

Next, he was appointed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, a position he held until 1991.

Muriel O. Farmer

Muriel O. Farmer

Muriel O. Farmer

Born December 2, 1917 Muriel, the daughter of a Chicago policeman, was one of the first women to graduate from the prestigious John Marshall Law School in Chicago, IL. After graduating from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana at the age of 21, she worked as a social worker while studying law. After passing the bar Muriel went into the legal profession full time and spent over 50 years practicing law, becoming one of the best known divorce lawyers in the state.

Oddly enough, two of her best friends, both black women, were also John Marshall graduates. Her cousin went on to become an acclaimed criminal lawyer (Bernice Z. Leaner) and her best friend went on to be Chicago’s first Black Alderwoman (Anna Langford).

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.  (more…)

Violette Neatley Anderson

Violette N. Anderson

Violette N. Anderson was born July 16, 1882, in London, England. She and her parents, Richard and Marie Neatley, emigrated to the United States while Violette was a young girl, settling in Chicago. Violette graduated from Chicago’s North Division High School in 1899, then worked as a court reporter from 1905-1920.

She was fascinated by law and determined to become an attorney herself. She attended post-secondary school at the Chicago Seminar of Sciences from 1912-1915, and earned her LLB (a more advanced law degree than the typical JD) from Chicago Law School in 1920.

Violette Neatley Anderson became the first female Chicago City prosecutor in 1922, then established a successful legal practice in the Chicago area two years later. On January 29, 1926, she became the first African-American woman admitted to the US Supreme Court bar, but never argued a case before the Court. (more…)