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Meet The 5 Early Phenomenal African American Lawyers

There were many African Americans who made an impact on history. Some of these great individuals were leaders, educators, politicians, and well-known lawyers. Here are 7 great lawyers that made a difference in history before the name Johnnie Cochran was known.



1. Benjamin Davis

A major figure in Harlem community politics and the Communist Party during the 1930s and 1940s, Benjamin Davis, Jr. was born into a prominent African American family in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1903. He migrated north to Massachusetts to attend Amherst College, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1929. Davis rose to national prominence as the head attorney for Angelo Herndon, a black Communist charged under an archaic slave law for sparking a violent uprising after he attempted to organize unemployed workers.


2. Charles Hamilton Houston

Charles Hamilton Houston, a renowned civil rights attorney, is known as “the man who killed Jim Crow.” He was the architect behind the civil rights strategy that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education.  He was also a mentor to Thurgood Marshall, who successfully litigated the pivotal desegregation case.


3. Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall, an American civil rights activist with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was the first Black American to serve on the Supreme Court.  As the principal counsel in numerous historical legal battles, he had one of the highest rates of success before the Supreme Court.



4. Archibald Grimke

Archibald Grimke was the second African American to graduate from Harvard Law School.  Grimké was a leading intellectual, journalist, diplomat, and community leader in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1903, he became president of the American Negro Academy, the nation’s top black intellectual society. 


5.  Philip Burton

Philip Burton was a Seattle lawyer for more than 40 years, a voice for the disadvantaged, and a fighter for reforms to end discrimination in education, housing and employment.  His played an essential role in the desegregation of Seattle Public Schools and the initial filing of the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.


Perry Wilbon Howard II

Perry Wilbon Howard was known for being one of the shrewdest, most stern, yet enduring Southern black politicians of the early 20th Century. Howard was a dominant figure in Mississippi Republican politics for half of the twentieth century. He served as the Republican National Committeeman from Mississippi from 1924 to 1961.

William Chase

William Chase was born in 1854 to a free black family in Washington, D.C. Chase was raised in integrated neighborhoods and attended local area schools including Howard University Law School. He served as the editor of the Washington Bee for almost 40 years, which was the nation’s oldest secular newspaper in continuous publication at the time.


Written by How Africa

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