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Education] Ray, Charlotte.

Annual Commencement of Howard University Law Department.


[Education] [Ray, Charlotte E.] Annual Commencement of Howard University Law Department,
Tuesday, February 27, 1872, at 7 O'Clock P.M. at the First Congregational Church, Washington, D.C.
[Washington]: Reed & Woodward, Printers, [1872].
Bifolium; three pages printed; cream stock, printed in black; light wear.
A program for commencement proceedings for Charlotte Ray's class; it lists faculty, the names of the 13
graduates, the Order of Exercises, the Address to Graduates and Conferring of Degrees by General
Howard, and Addresses by Horace Maynard and John A. Bingham.
Ray (1850-1911) was one of the first African-American women admitted to the practice of law in any
jurisdiction in the United States and the first African-American graduate of an American law school. Born
in New York City, she was one of seven children. Her father was the distinguished pastor of the Bethesda
Congregational Church in New York, who was recognized for his work as a tireless leader in the
Underground Railroad. Ray began her career as a teacher in the Normal and Preparatory Department of
Howard University and later entered its Law School. At her graduation ceremony she presented a wellreceived
essay on "Chancery"-listed in the program.
She was admitted to practice in the lower courts of the District of Columbia and soon after to practice in
the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Hoping to specialize in real-estate law, she opened a law
office in Washington. Finding that she could not earn a living, she was forced to give up her private
practice. Several years after attending the annual convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association
in New York City, she returned permanently to New York. Little is known about her life other than the fact
that she taught in the Brooklyn public schools and married a man with the surname of Fraim sometime
after 1886. Her death, at the age of 60, was attributed to acute bronchitis. It should be remembered that
society did not yet accept women in the legal profession, so she was unable to attract enough business to
maintain a practice. Despite discrimination against blacks and women, "she justified the dreams of many
abolitionists, woman suffragists, and free Black Americans ... She remains an unsung pioneer." Hine,
Brown, and Terborg-Penn, Black Women in America II, pp. 964-965. NAW III, pp. 121.

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