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Wed, 05.05.2010

Allegheny Bar admits Vashon after 163 years

George B. Vashon

*On this date in  2010 a Black man was admitted to the Allegheny County Bar posthumously 163 year after he applied. 

In 1847, the Allegheny County Bar denied George Boyer Vashon entry because he was Black. Vashon reapplied to the bar in 1868 and was again denied.  Though Pennsylvania was a "free state" prior to the American Civil War, opportunity for blacks in cities like Pittsburgh were lacking.   Vashon studied law under the guidance of attorney Walter Forward and the Allegheny County Courthouse was 40 years old when Vashon was denied entry into the Allegheny County Bar in 1847.  

Vashon went to Washington, D.C. the next month and was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States."  Vashon also was the first Black man to practice law in New York.   Wendell Freeman practiced law for 60 years but had never come across a case like this.  This journal issue of the "Pennsylvania Lawyer" brought the story to his attention a couple years ago.  He petitioned the Pa. Supreme Court on behalf of Vashon's descendant, a Philadelphia attorney and in the spring of 2010, they got the word that Vashon was posthumously admitted to the Allegheny County Bar.

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