In honor of Black History Month, the Bottaro Law Firm, LLC pays tribute to a few notable African American jurists that made a difference in our courts and in our nation.
Dennis Wayne Archer
An African American lawyer and politician from Michigan, Dennis Wayne Archer (born 1942) served on the Michigan Supreme Court and as mayor of Detroit. He became the first black president of the American Bar Association, which, until 1943, had denied membership to African American lawyers.
Lani Guinier (born 1950) is an American civil rights theorist, the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and the first woman of color appointed to a tenured professorship there. Her work involves the skilled responsibilities of public lawyers, the connection between democracy and therefore the law, the part race and gender play within public policy, college admissions, and affirmative action.
Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, who served from 1967 until 1991. Marshall was the Court’s 96th justice and its first African-American justice.
Before Marshall became a judge, he was a lawyer best known for success in arguing before the Supreme Court and for winning Brown v. Board of Education, a 1954 decision that ruled that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. Appointed by President John F. Kennedy, Marshall served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him Solicitor General, and later nominated him to the United States Supreme Court in 1967 where he was approved by the Senate.
Jane Bolin (1908-2007) was an attorney who became the first African-American female judge in the United States, serving on New York’s Family Court for four decades. After her first term, Bolin was reinstated as a judge for three additional terms, each 10 years long, and served on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the New York Urban League boards. Bolin was required to retire from the bench at age 70, after which she worked as a consultant and school-based volunteer, and with the New York State Board of Regents.
In the words of Jane Bolin, “I am always impatient with those who say, ‘You women have come a long way.’ Since I am no gradualist, I think to myself that 150 years is too long a time to ‘come a long way’ in and that those gains we have made were never graciously and generously granted. We have had to fight every inch of the way—in the face of insufferable humiliations.”