All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Friday, June 11, 2010

Macon B. Allen, America's First Black Lawyer

Macon Bolling Allen of Portland was the first African American admitted to the bar in the United States. This item appeared in the Portland American of Sept. 4, 1844:
A Coloured Lawyer.—Macon B. Allen, of Portland, and formerly of Boston, Massachusetts, a coloured gentleman, whose application for admission to the bar in April last, under the new act, was, as we stated in our paper at the time, refused on the ground that the applicant was not a citizen of Maine, in the contemplation of said act, subsequently applied under the old law to be admitted by examination. He was thereupon called before the examiners, a committee of the Cumberland bar, and sustained a satisfactory examination—the committee recommending him to the Court as a fit candidate—and accordingly he was admitted in the District Court, to practice as an attorney and counsellor at law in the courts of this state.
Allen soon discovered, though, that "Maine was not a good place for a black man to practice law as an attorney," and removed to Boston, where he was admitted to the bar in May 1845. He died in Washington, D. C., Oct. 10, 1894, after fifty years of service as an attorney and judge.

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