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Tue, 11.03.1863

Aaron Mossell II, Lawyer and Activist born

Aaron Mossell II

*Aaron Mossell II was born on this date in 1863. He was a Black lawyer and activist.

Aaron Albert Mossell II was born in Hamilton, Ontario, the youngest of six children. His parents had moved with their first three children from Maryland to Hamilton in the 1850s to escape American racism. His father, Aaron Albert Mossell, the grandson of slaves, became a brickmaker and, in Hamilton, went to school to learn to read and write. His mother, Eliza Bowers, was a free woman from Baltimore whose family had been deported to Trinidad when she was a child. She returned later and met Mossell.

By 1870 the family had returned to the United States and lived in Lockport, New York. Mossell II graduated from Lincoln University. As the first black to graduate, he earned his law degree at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1888. Mossell II married Mary Louisa Tanner in Philadelphia around 1890. They had three children. Aaron Albert Tanner III,  Elizabeth Mossell Anderson, and Sadie Tanner Mossell.  Mossell separated from his wife and family when Sadie was about a year old, and the couple eventually divorced.

Mossell practiced law with two black partners in offices in the Witherspoon Building. He was a solicitor of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital, where his brother Nathan was medical director. He was said to have defended some black men after the racial riots of 1917-1919 in Philadelphia. Later, Mossell II moved to Wales, where he lived by the 1930s and remained the rest of his life. He died on February 1, 1951, in Cardiff, Wales.

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