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Sun, 01.13.1850

Charlotte Ray, Teacher, and Attorney born

Charlotte Ray

This date marks the birth of Charlotte E. Ray in 1850. She was a Black teacher and the first Black female lawyer in the United States.

She was born in New York City, where her father was a journalist, Congregational minister, antislavery activist, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. Ray studied at the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington, D.C.,  and by 1869, she was teaching at Howard University. There she studied law and received her degree in 1872. Her admission that year to the District of Columbia bar made her the first woman admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and the first Black woman certified as a lawyer in the United States.

Charlotte E. Ray opened a law office in Washington, D.C., but racial prejudices proved too strong, and she could not obtain enough legal business to maintain an active practice. By 1879, she had returned to New York City, where she taught in public schools. In the late 1880s, she married a man with the surname of Fraim. Little is known of her later life. She died on Jan. 4, 1911, in Woodside, N.Y.

To Become a Lawyer


Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

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