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Sun, 08.04.1816

Macon B. Allen, one of America’s first Black Lawyers

Macon B. Allen

*Macon Allen was born on this date in 1816. He was a Black teacher, lawyer and judge.

From Indiana, born Macon Bolling Allen, he grew up free man.  He learned to read and write on his own and eventually landed his first a job as a schoolteacher, where he further improved his reading and writing skills. Allen moved to Portland, Maine in the early 1840s and studied law and worked as a law clerk for General Samuel Fessenden, a local abolitionist and attorney.

After passing the Maine bar exam, he was granted his license to practice law in Maine on July 3, 1844. Allen thus was one of the first Black licensed to practice law in the United States.  He experienced difficulty finding legal work in Maine because whites were unwilling to hire a Black attorney and few Blacks lived in the state.  In 1845 he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, walking fifty miles to the bar exam test site because he could not afford transportation, and passed the exam.  Allen and Robert Morris together  opened the first Black law office in the United States.

Racial prejudice in Boston again kept Allen from making a living as a lawyer so he sought to become a judge to supplement his income.  After passing a rigorous qualifying exam for Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County, Massachusetts in 1848, Allen became the first Black in the United States to hold a judicial position; this despite not being a U.S. citizen under the Constitution.  He moved to Charleston, South Carolina after the American Civil War to practice law and was elected to be a judge in the probate court of Charleston in 1874.

Following the Reconstruction Era, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association. He continued to practice law until his death at age 78, Macon Allen died on June 11, 1894.

Reference:
Black Past
4816 25th Avenue N.E., PMB 222
Seattle, Washington 98105

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