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Raymond Pace Alexander At his desk in his law office, circa 1935-1940. Collections of the University of Pennsylvania Archives.

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Alexander, Raymond Pace (13 October 1898–24 November 1974), lawyer, judge, and civil rights leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the third son of Hillard Boone and Virginia Pace Alexander, both slaves in Virginia who were freed in 1865 and migrated to Philadelphia in 1880. His background was working-class poor and he grew up in Philadelphia's seventh ward, an all-black community made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois's seminal study ...

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Birney, James Gillespie (04 February 1792–18 November 1857), lawyer and reformer, was born near Danville, Kentucky, the son of James Birney and Martha Reed (both of Irish extraction), owners of a prosperous plantation worked by slave labor. When James was three, his mother died, leaving him and an infant sister to be raised by a widowed aunt who came from Ireland. His aunt’s opposition to slavery was one of the early influences on James’s thinking, although he became a slave master himself at age six when he was given a slave his own age, Michael, as a birthday present. Michael remained with him until Birney’s mid-life conversion to the abolitionist cause; he was then freed, given back wages for his years of service, and set up in a livery stable business. When James was seven his father and grandfather Reed both backed an unsuccessful attempt to write an emancipation clause into the state constitution....

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Blackwell, Randolph Talmadge (10 March 1927–21 May 1981), attorney, educator, and civil rights activist, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Joe Blackwell and Blanche Mary Donnell. He attended the city’s public schools for African-American youth and earned a B.S. in sociology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro in 1949. Four years later Blackwell earned a J.D. degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In December 1954 he married Elizabeth Knox. The couple had one child. After teaching economics for a year at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal, Alabama, near Huntsville, Blackwell became an associate professor of social sciences at Winston-Salem State Teachers College in North Carolina....

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Inez Milholland Boissevain Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1914. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-0661-B).

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Boissevain, Inez Milholland (06 August 1886–25 November 1916), lawyer, feminist, and suffrage activist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of John Elmer Milholland, a reporter and editorial writer, and Jean Torrey. Her father supported many reforms, among them world peace, civil rights, and woman suffrage. It was probably through his influence that Inez acquired her sense of moral justice and her activist stance....

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Boudinot, Elias Cornelius (01 August 1835–27 September 1890), Cherokee lawyer and progressive, was born in New Echota, Georgia, the son of Elias Boudinot, tribal leader and editor of the newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, and Harriet Gold, daughter of a prominent New England family. His mother died a year after his birth....

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Burlingham, Charles Culp (31 August 1858–06 June 1959), attorney, civic leader, and social and political reformer, was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, the son of the Reverend Aaron Hale Burlingham, a Baptist minister, and Emma Starr. Reverend Burlingham was a minister in New York City. C. C. B., as he was known by friends, lived in France for a time, after his father became minister of the American Chapel in Paris in 1863. In 1866 the family returned to the United States, and Charles’s father accepted a position as a pastor in St. Louis, Missouri, where Charles lived until he enrolled in Harvard University in 1875. He graduated in 1879 with an A.B. He then entered Columbia Law School, from which he received an LL.B. in 1881, the same year he was admitted to the New York bar. Two years later he married Louisa W. Lawrence; they had two sons and a daughter....

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Cohen, Felix Solomon (03 July 1907–19 October 1953), lawyer, was born in New York City, the son of Morris Cohen, an academic and philosopher, and Mary Ryshpan, a former teacher. Cohen attended Townsend Harris High School, which conducted a joint program with City College. After graduating magna cum laude from City College, he earned his M.A. in philosophy from Harvard in 1927. Cohen entered Columbia Law School in 1928, completed his Ph.D. comprehensive exams at Harvard and received his doctorate in 1929, and received his LL.B. from Columbia in 1931. That year he accepted a position as research assistant for a judge on the New York Supreme Court and married Lucy M. Kramer. They had two children....

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Coulter, Ernest Kent (14 November 1871–01 May 1952), reformer and lawyer, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of James Hervey Coulter and Emily J. Erwin. His parents’ exact occupations are not known, although a biographical listing shows his father as Dr. Coulter. After attending local schools, Coulter graduated from Ohio State University in 1893. He worked briefly as tri-state editor for the ...

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Crosby, Ernest Howard (04 November 1856–03 January 1907), attorney, social reformer, and writer, was born in New York City, the son of Howard Crosby and Margaret Evertson Givan. His father was the pastor of the prestigious Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church from 1863 to 1891, chancellor of New York University, founder of the city’s Society for the Prevention of Crime, and a critic of the labor movement and single tax reform. Crosby was educated at Mohegan Lake School in Westchester County and at New York University, from which he graduated with first honors in his class of 1876. Two years later Crosby graduated with honors from Columbia University’s law school and was admitted to the bar. He practiced law for ten years and became a major in the National Guard. In 1881 Crosby married Fanny Kendall Schieffelin, the daughter of a wealthy New York importer. They became the parents of two children....

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Dargan, Edmund S. (15 April 1805–24 November 1879), legislator and judge, was born near Wadesboro, in Montgomery County, North Carolina, the son of a Baptist minister, whose given name is unknown, and a woman whose maiden name was Lilly. Dargan’s full middle name is listed in a number of sources as either Strother or Spawn. His father died when Dargan was very young. There was no adequate estate, and to earn a livelihood he became an agricultural laborer. Dargan was a self-educated young man who studied the law in typical nineteenth-century fashion, in the law office of a local practitioner in Wadesboro. After a year of study he was admitted in 1829 to the North Carolina bar. The following year he walked to Alabama, where he settled in Washington in Autauga County. He was admitted to the Alabama bar and served as a justice of the peace in Autauga County for a number of years....

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DeCrow, Karen (18 December 1937–06 June 2014), feminist activist, author, and civil rights attorney, was born Karen Lipschultz in Chicago, the older of two daughters of businessman Samuel Meyer Lipschultz and Juliette Abt Lipschultz, a former professional ballet dancer. Educated in the city’s public schools, as a teenager she composed and submitted short stories to national magazines, and she pursued her interest in writing in college as well. She graduated from Sullivan High School in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood in 1955 and received a bachelor’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1959....

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DeSilver, Albert (03 August 1888–07 December 1924), civil liberties leader and lawyer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Carll Harrison DeSilver, a stockbroker and art patron, and Mary Henrietta Block. He attended private schools in Brooklyn and Connecticut and was graduated in 1910 from Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones and the editorial board of the ...

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Durham, John Stephens (18 July 1861–16 October 1919), diplomat, lawyer, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Durham and Elizabeth Stephens. Two of his uncles, Clayton Durham and Jeremiah Durham, were noted clergymen who helped Bishop Richard Allen establish the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. A mulatto, Durham studied in the Philadelphia public schools, graduating from the Institute for Colored Youth in 1876....

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Earle, Thomas ( April 1796–15 July 1849), lawyer and reformer, was born in Leicester, Massachusetts, the son of Pliny Earle, a manufacturer of machinery for textile factories, and Patience Buffum. Earle studied in the public schools and at the Leicester Academy. After he left school he worked briefly for a family business in nearby Worcester and in 1817 moved to Philadelphia. He worked as a commission merchant until 1824, when the company that he worked for failed. Earle then read law with ...

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Eastman, Crystal (25 June 1881–08 July 1928), lawyer and social reformer, was born in Marlboro, Massachusetts, the daughter of Samuel Elijah Eastman and Annis Bertha Ford, both Congregational ministers. Her mother, ordained as one of the first women Congregational ministers in 1890, was a progressive thinker and eloquent speaker and had a great influence on her children. Eastman earned a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College (1903), a master’s degree in sociology from Columbia University (1904), and a doctorate from New York University Law School (1907)....

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Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Seated right, with J. E. Fellows, dean of admissions at the University of Oklahoma, seated left, and, standing left to right, Thurgood Marshall and Amos T. Hall, 1948. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-84479).

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Fisher, Ada Lois Sipuel (08 February 1924–18 October 1995), civil rights pioneer, lawyer, and educator, was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, the daughter of Travis B. Sipuel, a minister and later bishop of the Church of Christ in God, one of the largest black Pentecostal churches in the United States, and Martha Bell Smith, the child of a former slave. Her parents moved to Chickasaw, Oklahoma, shortly after the Tulsa race riot of 1921....

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Flexner, Bernard (24 February 1865–03 May 1945), lawyer, social welfare advocate, and Jewish community leader, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Morris (originally Moritz) Flexner and Esther Abraham. His parents, immigrants from Bohemia and the Rhineland, had settled in Louisville in the 1850s. Morris prospered as a hat merchant, but the panic of 1873 left his family of nine children impoverished. Bernard, who was the fifth child and fifth son, had two brothers who achieved eminence in American life. ...