Legal Divas of Color: Charlotte E. Ray

Legal Divas of Color: Charlotte E. Ray

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Charlotte E. Ray was born in New York in January 1850. She was a daughter of a slavery abolitionist — highly intelligent with a will of steel. She decided to go to law school at a time that women and African Americans were not welcome. Knowing this, she got creative. She submitted her application as C.E. Ray, tricking the admissions committee into thinking she was a man. She succeeded, and attended Howard University School of law in Washington, D.C. Ms. Ray excelled in her coursework, with her specialty being corporate law. Her classmates were very impressed by her, noting that she was an apt student.

Ms. Ray graduated, and in 1872 became the FIRST woman to be admitted to the DC Bar…and the first woman of color to practice law in the US. Later, she became the FIRST woman to be granted permission to argue cases before the US Supreme Court.

She opened her own firm, advertising in famous activist Frederick Douglass’ newspaper to attract clients. Being aware of the biases of the day, she continued the use of the name C.E. Ray. Unfortunately, it was just too hard, and she had to close her firm. Never being one to sit idle, she became a teacher in Brooklyn, NY. Ms. Ray was part of the women’s suffrage movement, as well as being an early member of the NAACP.

She died in NY in January 1911. Her legacy of firsts should never be forgotten.

Charlotte E. Ray, I thank you for being the ORIGINAL Legal Diva

4 thoughts on “Legal Divas of Color: Charlotte E. Ray

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