Macon Bolling Allen 1816 - 1894
Macon Allen was the first African-American to pass a state bar examination. Passing the state bar qualifies an applicant to practice law in a given state. Allen’s first state license was earned in the state of Maine in 1844, though he was first required to pay a fee and pass a written exam, since he was not a citizen of Maine.
Allen’s accomplishments were extraordinary considering he had no formal legal training, with the exception of being the beneficiary of world-class mentorship from General Samuel Fessenden, a popular abolitionist.
Though licensed to practice law in Maine, citizens were unwilling to have a black man represent them. Thus, Allen moved to Massachusetts and passed the Massachusetts bar in 1845. It was in Massachusetts where Allen received his first real experience. His talent was recognized early in his career. In fact, in the late 1840s Allen became the first African-American to serve on the U.S. judiciary, when he was named justice of the peace for Middlesex County.
Two decades later, Allen moved to South Carolina and became a partner in the first black law firm in the United States. The firm was located in Charleston and Allen’s two partners were William J. Whipper and Robert Brown Elliot. Similar to his experience in Massachusetts, the community recognized his talent and inherent jurisprudential fairness. As a result, Allen earned a second judgeship in the Palmetto State.