Charlotte E. Ray was born in New York City on January 13, 1850. She graduated from the Howard University School of Law in 1872 and was admitted to the District of Columbia bar that same year, becoming the first female African-American lawyer in the United States. Active in the suffrage movement, Ray was a member the National Association of Colored Women. She died in New York in 1911.
Ray excelled at her studies at the Howard University School of Law, especially in corporate law. According to Notable Black American Women, one of her classmates described her as “an apt scholar.” Ray earned her law degree in 1872 and was admitted to the District of Columbia bar that same year, becoming the first African-American female attorney in the United States, as well as one of the first women to be admitted to the D.C. bar.
She continued to break new ground for women and African Americans later in life, becoming the first woman to be granted permission to argue cases in front of the U.S.Supreme Court in the capital. Following her graduation, Ray started her own law office, specializing in commercial law. To attract clients, she advertised in a newspaper run by Frederick Douglass, a leader in the abolitionist movement.