Celebrating Black Heroes: Charlotte E. Ray

February 09, 2022   |   Jasmine Little

To mark Black History Month, we asked members of our New Lawyers Division to name a Black historical figure who inspires them. Jasmine Little of Deuterman Law Group chose Charlotte E. Ray, who became America’s first Black woman attorney in 1872.

Born in 1850, Ray was working as a teacher at Howard University in Washington, D.C., when she applied to Howard University’s law school. She earned her law degree and gained admission to the District of Columbia Bar using the initials C.E. rather than her first name. After graduation, she opened her own practice, where she focused on commercial law. Ray closed her practice in 1879 after struggling to find clients.

Little writes: “I am inspired by Ms. Ray’s unwavering determination to advance not only her life, but the lives of future Black women attorneys. Ms. Ray’s courage serves as a reminder to all of us to continue to push the legal profession forward in a positive direction. Her willingness to embark on a path that had not yet been traveled, despite the obstacles she faced, allowed me to envision practicing law as a possible career path. I will always be grateful for her contributions to the legal profession.”

Find more on Ray at Black Past and at the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s Charlotte E. Ray Award page.