Charlotte E. Ray, Esq. was the first African American female lawyer in the United States. In 1872, she was admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia. Prior to Ray being admitted to the District of Columbia bar, it recently removed the word “male” from its bar member requirements.
Ray attended and graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1872. When she applied to Howard University she used initials, C. E. Ray on her application. There is some controversy over whether she used her initials, instead of her full name on her application as a way of disguising her gender, since the university had not accepted a female prior.
Ray opened her own law practice in Washington, DC., but found it difficult to make a living as an attorney due to racial and gender bias. She returned to New York in 1879 and became a school teacher.
In 2006, I was admitted to the Maryland bar, and the District of Columbia bar in 2014. If she were alive today, I would want to tell her Thank you!!! Thank you, Charlotte E. Ray for the sacrifices, determination, blood, sweat and tears. She has paved the way for me, Gwen-Marie Davis Hicks, Esq.
Gwen-Marie Davis Hicks, Esquire is the managing partner at GDH Law. GDH Law represents injury victims, business and civil litigation clients. Contact GDH Law at 301-769-6835.
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