Politics and Government

Law and the Supreme Court

Who was the first black woman lawyer in the United States admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court?

The first black woman lawyer in the United States, and the third woman admitted to law practice in this country, was Charlotte E. Ray (1850–1911). As a graduate of Howard Law School (Washington, D.C.), she was automatically admitted to practice in the lower courts of the district, and on April 23, 1872, she became the first black woman admitted to practice before the Supreme Court. Ray was born in New York City. Hampered by her gender, she eventually became a teacher in the Brooklyn schools. She attended the National Woman Suffrage Association held in New York City in 1876, and she was active in the National Association of Colored Women. Ray’s father, Charles Bennett Ray (1807–1886), was a noted abolitionist, minister, and editor. Charlotte Ray’s sister, Florence T. Ray (1849–1916), was an accomplished poet.


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