(The Biography.com Editors 2014)

Macon Bolling Allen became the first licensed African-American attorney in the United States in 1844. The following year, he became the first black American to practice law in the nation.


Born in 1816 in Indiana, Macon Bolling Allen moved to Maine in the early 1840s. There he started studying law. In 1844, Allen became the first African American to be admitted to the Maine bar. The following year, he became the first African American to be licensed in Massachusetts. He was appointed justice of the peace for Middlesex County a short time later. In 1868, Allen moved to South Carolina. He died in 1894 in Washington, D.C.

Groundbreaking Lawyer

Born in Indiana in 1816, Macon Bolling Allen is best known as the first African-American man to be licensed as a lawyer in the United States. He eventually landed work as a schoolteacher. Heading east, Allen moved to Portland, Maine, in the early 1840s. There he studied law in the offices of two different attorneys, according to J. Clay Smith Jr.'s Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944. One of the lawyers who supported Allen was General Samuel Fessenden, a well-known abolitionist.

Allen was rejected on his first attempt to become licensed in Maine because he was not a state citizen. The state bar also allowed a person to take an exam to become a lawyer there. In July 1844, Allen passed the test and became the first licensed black lawyer in Maine.

Later Career

While he passed the bar in Maine, Allen never practiced law there. He moved to Massachusetts in 1845 and was admitted to the bar there that same year. Allen has the distinction of being the first African-American man to be licensed by the state of Massachusetts. In the late 1840s, he continued to break new ground when he was appointed the justice of the peace for Middlesex County. Allen is believed to have been the first African-American member of the country's judiciary.

Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1868. At this time, the South was going through reconstruction following the Civil War. He was admitted to the bar in South Carolina and eventually earned another judicial post there. In the late 1870s, Allen relocated to Washington, D.C. He went to work for the Land and Improvement Association as an attorney. Allen died in Washington in October 1894, at the age of 78.


The Biography.com Editors. 2014. Macon Bolling Allen - Judge, Lawyer - Biography. April 2. Accessed February 21, 2018. https://www.biography.com/people/macon-bolling-allen-21342461.

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