Macon Bolling Allen was the first African-American attorney admitted to practice in the United States of America, when, in July of 1844, the State of Maine gave him citizenship and a license to practice as an attorney.
Bacon was at first a teacher in Indiana and moved to Portland in about 1835, likely to benefit from Maine's anti-slavery policy. There, he met the anti-slavery lawyer, General Samuel Fessenden. Under Fessenden's wing, Allen asked to be admitted to the bar but was at first rejected. He then demanded to take the bar examination which he passed.
Willis writes, in A History of the Law:
"He, however, never entered into the practice in Maine, but went to Boston and made repeated applications for admission to the Suffolk (Massachusetts) bar but was uniformly rejected."
He had difficulty finding clients in Maine so he moved to Boston.
On May 5,1845, Judge Merrick of the Boston Municipal Court endorsed his "certificate of competency to practise as an attorney and counselor at law in the courts of Massachusetts".
The Massachusetts newspaper account of the event reads more like a medical report and was as follows:
"Mr. Allen is 29 years of age - is a native of Indiana, and his color and physiognomy bespeak a mingled Indian and African extraction, in about equal proportion. He is of medium height and size and passably good looking. He is indeed a better looking man than two or three white members of the Boston bar, and it is hardly possible that he can be a worse lawyer than at least six f them, whom we could name. He commenced his legal studies in the office of General (Samuel) Fessenden of Portland and completed them under Mr. Bewell. What the profession generally in this city think of the admission of Mr. Allen as a learned brother, we have not been able to gather."
With Robert Morris Jr., they opened the first black law practice in the United States.
He later became a Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County, Massachusetts, making him also the first African-American judge.
In 1868, he relocated to Charleston, South Carolina and in 1873, was elected judge of Inferior Court of Charleston and, later a probate judge.
He died in Washington, DC on October 10, 1894, at the age of 78.
- Kane, J., Famous First Facts, 5th Edition (New York: HW Wilson Company, 1997), page 316.
- Piloski, H. and Brown, R., Editors, The Negro Almanac (New York: Bellwhether Publishing Company Inc., 1967), page 8.
- Willis, William, A History of the Law, The Courts and the Lawyers of Maine (Portland, Bailey & Noyes, 1863).
< The Law Museum > < Duhaime's Timetable of World Legal History > < The Law's Hall of Fame >