Charlotte E. Ray

Born: 13th January 1850

Died: 4th January 1911

Birth Place: United States

Known for: Being a Lawyer

Ray was the first Black female lawyer in the U.S.

Her success inspired other women to follow suit.

Ray was involved in the fight for women’s equality.

Charlotte E. Ray

Life story


Early education


Charlotte Ray was raised in a family where education was important. Her father was an abolitionist, clergyman, and the editor of a magazine called, The Colored American. Ray attended the Institute of Education for Colored Youth before going on to study law at Howard University.


At that time, women were not allowed to become members of the legal profession’s association, which was controlled by white men intent on keeping women and Black people from joining. But Ray didn’t let this stop her, and she went on to prove that she was more than able of practicing law.


Working and teaching


She graduated in 1872, and became the first Black female lawyer in the United States, as well as the first woman to be admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia.


Ray taught at Howard University before deciding to open her own law practice in Washington, but discrimination and racial prejudice made it difficult for her to attract clients. Because of this, Ray moved back to New York to become a teacher so she could pass on her knowledge to young people. Not much else is known about her, except that she became an advocate for racial equality and women’s right to vote.

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