The First African American Lawyer, Macon Bolling Allen, overcame racism and discrimination to practice law. He began his practice at a time when States did not view African Americans as U.S. citizens. He garnered many achievements that lawyers today aim to accomplish. For example, he started his own firm, and South Carolinians elected him to a judge position. He deserves recognition and celebration for his many achievements.
In 1816, Macon Bolling Allen (also known as A. Macon Bolling), the first African American to practice law in the United States, was born in Indiana. Before becoming a lawyer, Allen was a schoolteacher. In the 1850s, Allen moved to Portland, Maine, where he began working for General Samuel Fessenden. General Fessenden was an abolitionist and a lawyer who Allen worked for as a law clerk while he studied law.
Allen pursued a license to practice law and attempted to gain admission to the Maine Bar. But the Maine Bar initially rejected Allen because it did not recognize Allen’s citizenship since he was an African American.
To bypass the citizenship issue, Allen took the bar exam. He passed the exam on July 3, 1844, and Maine provided him with a license to practice. However, Allen could not find work because many white people did not want to hire an African American. Therefore, he moved to Boston, MA, and opened the first African American law office. He started that venture with Robert Morris Senior. But he still experienced racism, which led to a lack of income, which inspired Allen to become a Justice of the Peace. He held this post in Middlesex County in Massachusetts, becoming the first African American person to hold a judicial position.
After the Civil War, Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina. There he helped form the first African American Law Firm in the United States, Whipper, Elliot, and Allen. He formed this firm with two other African American Lawyers, William Whipper, and Robert Brown. After the passing of the 15th Amendment, Allen became involved in politics. Allen was an active member of the Republican party. Due to his political activity, Allen was appointed a Judge of the Inferior Court of Charleston in 1873. The next year he was elected as probate Judge for Charleston County.
In 1878, Allen moved to Washington D.C. and worked as a lawyer for the Land and Improvement Association until his death in 1894. Upon his death, Allen left behind his wife and five children.
As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to remember that you cannot be discriminated against on the basis of race. If you think your employer is discriminating against you on the basis of race McOmber McOmber & Luber P.C. can help. Please call us at our Red Bank, New Jersey office at 732-842-6500, our Newark, New Jersey office at 973-878-9040, or our Marlton, New Jersey office at 856-985-9800 to find out more.