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Sat, 08.14.1875

Edward B. Ceruti, Lawyer, and Activist born

Edward B. Ceruti

*Edward Ceruti was born on this date in 1875. He was a Black attorney and racial justice activist.

Edward Burton Ceruti was born, in Nassau, the Bahamas. His parents were Eliza Jane Anderson a mulatto and Edward Burton Ceruti, Sr., the family moved to the United States when he was four years old. According to the 1880 census, Burton and his mother were living in the First Ward, City of Jacksonville, Florida after 1878. By 1905, Burton was residing in Brooklyn, New York.

He studied at Shaw and Howard Universities and the Brooklyn Law School. The Brooklyn Law School was not authorized to grant its degrees until 1943. Instead, its graduates received their degrees from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Ceruti thus was awarded his law degree from St. Lawrence in 1911. He then moved to California and was admitted to that state’s bar in 1912. Ceruti soon became known for his efforts to challenge Jim Crow discrimination against Blacks.

W. E. B. Du Bois visited Los Angeles in 1913. Although we do not know for certain if Ceruti met Du Bois, records indicate that Ceruti took the lead in organizing a local branch of the NAACP soon after his visit. Ceruti was a vocal advocate of suppression of D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. His public stand against the film attracted many new members to the NAACP. Ceruti also led the branch’s successful effort to end discrimination against Blacks by the Los Angeles County Hospital’s Training School for Nurses.

In addition to his work in the field of civil rights, as an attorney, Ceruti developed a reputation for his successful employment of the “insanity defense.” Ceruti served for several years as the Exalted Ruler of the Elks Lodge. He was a leader in the Knights of Pythias, and he was a charter member of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. E. Burton Ceruti died unexpectedly of heart failure in Los Angeles on March 21, 1927.

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