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Law School Admission and African American Males

Law School Admission and African American Males


In a January 1874 speech, Congressman Richard Harvey Cain of South Carolina proclaimed "all we ask is equal laws, equal legislation and equal rights" (George, 1952, 112). Cain's eloquent phrase summarized his response to an attack on a civil rights bill by a white congressman from North Carolina. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was achieved in part because of the advocacy of black Congressmen like Cain. Elected to Congress in 1872, Cain was one of six black Congressmen who represented South Carolina during Reconstruction. While these Congressmen were significant figures in the era, they were but a small fraction of the African American lawmakers in South Carolina. From the beginning of Reconstruction in 1868 until its end in 1877, over 250 African American men were elected to public office in the state. The story of Reconstruction is well documented by historians, but the general public knows little about the era. The period immediately following Reconstruction is even more shrouded. The end of Reconstruction and, the re-emergence of white Democratic domination did not end the role of blacks in the national office, in the state. Between 1877, and, 1895 in South Carolina, three African Americans were elected to Congress, and, about 50 others were elected to various state offices. Over the last 25 years of the 19th Century, white politicians worked assiduously to prevent African Americans from serving in public life in the state. By 1902, these white racists had succeeded. After that year, no African American was elected to any state office until 1969, when two black lawyers were elected municipal judges serving respectively in Charleston and Columbia. An African American did not return to the United States Congress from the state until 1992. With his election in 1992, James Clyburn became the first African American sent to the House of Representatives from South Carolina in the 20th Century. Over the period from 1868 to today, over 400 African Americans have served as congressmen, legislators, constitutional convention delegates, and judges in South Carolina. Many of these individuals have largely vanished into history (Bell, 1993, 56).

Historic African American Lawyers Civil Rights Era

Forty years ago, a crucial stage in the civil rights revolution of the 20th century came to a bloody climax in the old south. At that time, the Detroit Chapter was historically one of the most active local affiliates of the National Lawyers Guild. The NLG is a left bar association founded in 1937. At its inception, the Guild defined itself as a racially integrated association of radical and liberal lawyers seeking to, as stated in the preamble to its constitution, “unite the lawyers of America in a professional organization which shall function as an effective social force in the service of the people to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property rights” (John, 2006, 55). NLG gave legal support to struggles to defend ...
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