Charlotte Ray

First African American Woman Lawyer

Dates: January 13, 1850 - January 4, 1911

Occupation: lawyer, teacher

Known for: first African American woman lawyer in the United States and first woman admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia

About Charlotte Ray:

Ray was of mixed racial ancestry including Native American and European. Her father was a leader in the black community of his day, editing the Colored American in New York City and pastoring at the Bethesda Congregational Church.

Charlotte went to school in Washington, D. C., and became a teacher at Howard University when it was only two years old. She earned a law degree in 1872 from Howard University and was admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia, which had recently changed its laws to omit "male" from the requirements for the bar.

As a "colored woman lawyer" she was unable to sustain a successful private practice. Her history after graduation is difficult to trace, though a few events are known. She participated in the woman suffrage movement, at least briefly. She moved back to New York City where she taught public school in Brooklyn for a few years. She married, though little is known of her husband except his surname, Fraim.