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Who Is The First Black Lawyer?

Lisa JacksonSeptember 14, 2022,

It was Macon Bolling Allen, the first African American lawyer, who managed to overcome racism and discrimination in order to pursue law. His practice began at a time when African Americans were not considered citizens of the United States. Throughout his career, he achieved many things that lawyers seek to achieve today.

Among his accomplishments is the establishment of his own firm, and he was elected to the position of judge by South Carolinians. There is no doubt that he deserves recognition and praise for all that he has accomplished.

Early Life  

In the year 1816, Macon Bolling Allen (also called A. Macon Bolling), one of the first African American lawyers in the United States, was born in the state of Indiana. Allen taught school before becoming a lawyer. 

During the 1850s, Allen moved to Portland, Maine, to work for General Samuel Fessenden. An abolitionist and lawyer, General Fessenden, hired Allen to work as a law clerk during his study of law.

Legal Career

Allen obtained a license to practice law and attempted to become a member of the Maine Bar. However, the Maine Bar initially refused Allen's application because he did not qualify as a citizen as an African American.

Allen took the bar exam in order to avoid the citizenship issue. As a result of his passing the exam on July 3, 1844, Maine granted him a license to practice. However, Allen was unable to find work because many whites were unwilling to hire African Americans. Due to this, he moved to Boston, MA, and established the first African American law firm there. 

He began that initiative with Robert Morris Senior. In spite of this, Allen still experienced racism, which resulted in his lack of income, motivating him to become a justice of the peace. He held this position in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, making him the first African American to hold a judicial position in the United States.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina. During this time, he contributed to the formation of the first African American law firm in the United States, Whipper, Elliot, and Allen. He founded the firm with two other African Americans, William Whipper, and Robert Brown. He became active in politics after the 15th Amendment was passed. 

During his lifetime, Allen participated actively in the Republican Party. His political activity led to Allen being appointed a judge of the inferior court of Charleston in 1873. In the following year, he was elected to serve as Charleston County's probate judge.

Upon moving to Washington, D.C., in 1878, Allen worked as a lawyer for the Land and Improvement Association until he died in 1894. Allen left behind a wife and five children at the time of his death.

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