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Mon, 06.22.1891

Earl Dickerson, Chicago Civic Leader born

Earl Dickerson

On this date, in 1891, Earl B. Dickerson was born. He was a Black attorney, teacher, and businessman.

Born in Canton, Mississippi, he moved to Chicago when he was 15. His mother bribed railroad porters to hide her son aboard a train to escape Jim Crow racial oppression in the South.  A graduate of the University of Illinois in 1914, he taught for a year at Tuskegee University in Alabama. He completed law at the University of Chicago Law School in 1920.  He became the first general counsel of the Supreme Life Insurance Company of America, one of the largest Black-owned insurance companies.

Known as "the dean of Chicago’s Black lawyers," Earl B. Dickerson was also a Chicago alderman.  He helped organize the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1939. He later became the company’s president and chairman of the board. That same year, Dickerson ran against William L. Dawson for 2nd Ward alderman and won.  He served on the City Council from 1939-1943.

In 1939, he represented the father of Chicago playwright Lorraine Hansberry in the case of Hansberry vs. Lee.  Dickerson successfully argued before the U. S. Supreme Court to end restrictive real-estate Red Lining covenants.  Earl Dickerson died September 1, 1986, in Chicago.

To Become a Lawyer


Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History
Volume 1, ISBN #0-02-897345-3, Pg 175
Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith, Cornel West

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