January 4th in African American History – Charlotte E. Ray

Charlotte E. RayJanuary 4, 1911 Charlotte E. Ray, the first black woman lawyer, died.

Ray was born January 13, 1850 in New York City. After graduating from the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth, she attended Howard University where she was a student and teacher.

In 1872, Ray graduated from Howard University School of Law with a specialization in commercial law and was admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia. As a “colored woman lawyer,” she was unable to sustain a practice. By 1879, she had returned to New York to teach in the public schools. Ray was also an advocate for women’s suffrage. She was a delegate to the 1876 conference of the National Women’s Suffrage Association.

Since 1989, the Greater Washington Area Chapter of the Women Lawyers Division of the National Bar Association annually recognizes a local outstanding African American female lawyer with the Charlotte E. Ray Award.


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