Thursday, February 13, 2014

BHM2014 - Macon Bolling Allen

Here is a person near and dear to my heart. For all of you followers who didn't know, I went to law school and, at one time, thought that I would make a living rescuing the injured from jail and an overly oppressive legal system. A legal system where the field will never be level; one that takes advantage of the poor and makes scapegoats of some minorities… so needless to say when I read about Macon Bolling Allen about 25 years ago, I was awe inspired. 

Macon Bolling Allen (born Allen Macon Bolling; August 4, 1816 – June 11, 1894, is believed to be the first black man in the United States who was licensed to practice law and is believed to be the first African American to hold a judicial position. 
Very little is known about Allen’s early years other than the fact that he was named A. Macon Bolling when he was born a free Negro in Indiana in 1816, the same year Indiana was admitted as the nineteenth state to join the Union. He was a self-taught lawyer who gained his knowledge and legal skills by serving as an apprentice and law clerk to practicing white lawyers in the pre-Civil War era. 

In his late twenties, Allen moved to Portland, Maine, where he changed his name from A. Macon Bolling to Macon Bolling Allen. Allen became a friend of the local anti-slavery leader, General Samuel Fessenden, who established a law firm and took on Allen as an apprentice. 

After passing the Maine bar exam, Allen was granted his license to practice law on July 3, 1844. 
Finding work in Maine, however, was difficult. There were few blacks there willing and able to hire Allen and most whites were unwilling to have a black man represent them in court. In 1845 Allen moved to Boston, Massachusetts where he met his wife Hannah Allen. They had five sons together, most of whom became teachers. 

Allen had to take the Massachusetts Bar exam in order to practice in the state. He walked fifty miles to the bar exam test site because he could not afford transportation, and passed the exam, on May 5, 1845, despite his fatigue. Shortly afterwards he and Robert Morris, Jr., opened the first black law office in the United States.  Allen soon set his sights even higher; in 1848 he passed another rigorous exam to become Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In addition to his license to practice law he is believed to be the first black man to hold a judiciary position.

Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina after the Civil War to open a new legal practice. In 1873 he was appointed as a judge in the Inferior Court of Charleston and one year later was elected judge probate for Charleston County, South Carolina. After Reconstruction, Allen moved again, this time to Washington, D.C. where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association. He continued to practice law right until his death at age 78.  Macon Bolling Allen was survived by his wife and one son, Arthur Allen.


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