City Bar Celebrates Black Heritage Month and Path-Breaking Black Lawyers
In honor of Black Heritage Month in its 150th Anniversary year, the City Bar celebrates some of the Black Americans who broke barriers in the legal profession, at the City Bar and beyond. For more legal luminary spotlights and to stay up to date on upcoming diversity and inclusion programming, follow @NYCBarDiversity on Twitter and Instagram.
Ms. Jane Bolin is the first black woman elected to membership at the City Bar in 1943. Ms. Bolin is the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School in 1931 and graduated from Wellesley College in 1928. She is the first black woman to be hired as a lawyer at the New York City Law Department (then known as corporation counsel). Ms. Bolin is also the first black woman to be a judge (appointed or elected) in the United States.
Read more about Ms. Bolin here: https://nyti.ms/2StvdhJ
Charlotte E. Ray was the first black woman to obtain a law degree in the United States. She graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1872. She was also the first female admitted to the District of Columbia Bar, and the first woman admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Unable to sustain a law practice due to her race and gender, she became a teacher in Brooklyn, New York.
Learn more about Ms. Ray here: http://bit.ly/31Vskcl
Honorable Amalya L. Kearse is the first black woman to be promoted to the partner level at a wall street firm. Judge Kearse was promoted to partner in 1969 at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP. Judge Kearse is a graduate of Wellesley College and University of Michigan Law School. She was nominated to sit on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1979 becoming the first woman and second black person to sit on the court. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated!
Learn more about Judge Kearse here: http://bit.ly/31WQXpm
Reginald Lewis’ company TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc. is the first black-owned business to generate a billion dollars in annual sales. He achieved this in 1992. Mr. Lewis graduated from Harvard Law School (1968) and Virginia State University (1965). As a first year associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Mr. Lewis was member of the New York City Bar Association. We have his original membership application! Fun fact: Mr. Lewis is the first person to be admitted to Harvard Law School without applying. Mr. Lewis was as member of Kappa Alpha Psi Incorporated.
Learn more about Mr. Lewis here: http://bit.ly/38uZSR4
Hon. Francis E. Rivers is the first black member of the New York City Bar Association. He was elected to the membership in 1929. Judge Rivers is a graduate of Yale University (1915) and Columbia Law School (1922). Judge Rivers has the distinction of being the first black person to be appointed/elected to New York City Court in 1943. He was former ADA in Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Learn more about Judge Rivers here https://nyti.ms/2P9mQ8V
Judge Baker Motley shattered barriers:
1. First woman hired by NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
2. First black woman to argue at the United States Supreme Court
3. First black woman | New York State Senator
4. First woman | Borough President of Manhattan
5. First black woman | United States Federal Judge
Fun fact: Prior to becoming a judge, Ms. Baker Motley would often visit Atlanta for work. Who was the person that would often pick her up at the airport and chauffeur her around? …. a young Vernon Jordan.
Learn more about Judge Baker Motley here: http://bit.ly/3bZfSgz
Justice Thurgood Marshall was a graduate of Lincoln University (1929) and Howard University School of Law (1933). He is know for one of the most important cases in U.S. legal history, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). Justice Marshall’s broke many barriers:
1. Founded the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and was its first Executive Director
2. First black person to sit on the United States Supreme Court
3. First black person to be appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
4. First black person to be appointed United States Solicitor General
5. Won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the United States Supreme Court
Conrad Harper, retired partner, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Sheila S. Boston, partner at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP. Mr. Harper is the first black president of the New York City Bar Association. He was elected president in 1990 and is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Ms. Boston will be the first black woman (woman of any color) president when she becomes president in June 2020. She is a graduate of Columbia Law School.
Fun Facts: Mr. Harper was mentored/sponsored by the first black member of the New York City Bar Association, the Hon. Francis E. Rivers. Ms. Boston mentors hundreds of black women attorneys.
Learn more here:
The founder of Black History Month, Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) was a graduate of University of Chicago (1908) and Harvard University (1912). He was the second black person to receive a PhD from Harvard after the GREAT W. E. B. Du Bois. He was a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. In 1926, Dr. Woodson founded “Negro History Week” to celebrate the achievements of black people. Over the decades, it has grown into Black History Month. Learn more about Dr. Woodson here: http://bit.ly/2uLPKVw