Charlotte E. Ray – First African American Woman Attorney
Charlotte E. Ray was the first black American female lawyer in the United States. Ray received her J.D. from Howard University School of Law in 1872 and was the first female admitted to the District Columbia Bar.
Ray’s story is of extreme importance, as it marks a milestone for women and female lawyers everywhere. In the 19th century, women were barred from the legal profession and were forbidden from obtaining licenses to practice law in many areas, thereby disallowing them to advance in their careers or to establish a legal career at all. Inspired by her father, a prominent abolitionist, Ray understood the importance of education and sought to break the mold and enter the legal field against all odds.
After passing the Bar, Ray opened her own law office, but, due to increasing discrimination and prejudice against African Americans, she was only able to practice law for a few years before becoming a teacher in Brooklyn, NY. Regardless, her novel accomplishments established precedent and paved the way for empowering other women to pursue their goals of becoming attorneys.