Black History Month

In celebration of black history month, the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) would like to spotlight some of the many African Americans who have made significant contributions to all segments of American history, culture, and society.  During the month of February, the daily Law Student e-mail will include a black history fact & a featured case in recognition of the people and events for which Black History Month is named. 

February 2012


An Advancement for Civil Rights & in the Name of "Love"



Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967).

The Facts:  Virginia enacted laws making it a felony for a non-African American person to intermarry with a person of African American descent. The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia held that the statutes served the legitimate state purpose of preserving the “racial integrity” of its citizens. Rule of Law:  Restricting the freedom to marry solely on the basis of race violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause

(to read the full case please see:

Rosa Parks 

In February 4, 1913, Rosa Parks born in Tuskegee, AL.  

UofL Desegregates 

The University of Louisville desegregated its Belknap campus and opened its graduate and professional schools in 1950. The first African American enrollees at the University of Louisville School of Law in 1951 were:

  • Aldred Van Calloway, graduated in 1954, admitted to the bar in 1955;
  • Willie C. Fleming, graduated in 1954, admitted to the bar in 1955;
  • James Muir Jr., a 1950 graduate of Louisville Municipal College (LMC)
  • Hortense Houston Young, an Assistant Librarian at Louisville Municipal College (LMC).

Sipuel v. Oklahoma 

In the case of Sipuel v. Oklahoma, the Supreme Court ruled on January 12, 1948, that a state must allow Blacks to study law at state institutions.  Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher had previously been barred from the University of Oklahoma Law School.


Black History Month  

Black History Month originated in 1926 by Carter Godwin Woodson as Negro History week. The month of February was chosen in honor of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, who were both born in that month.


Ron Brown 

Ron Brown was elected national chairman of the Democratic Party in 1989 and became the first African American to hold the post.  Brown was later appointed Secretary of Commerce under the Clinton administration.


Black American Law Students Association

In 1968, Algernon Johnson Cooper, former mayor of Prichard, Alabama, founded the first Black American Law Students Association at the New York University Law School. In 1983, BALSA revised its name and the word "American" was deleted to encompass all blacks, including those not of American nationality. Later, the word "National" was added to reflect the organization's national expansion, which now includes representation in the law schools of forty-eight states and Puerto Rico.


Samuel R. Lowery

Samuel R. Lowery became the first Black lawyer to actually argue a case before the Supreme Court on February 2, 1866.  One year and one day earlier, John S. Rock was the first Black admitted to practice before the Court.


Hortense Young  

Hortense Young was the first African American female admitted to the University of Louisville School of Law. She attended the law school from 1951 to 1953, with 1951 being her freshman year and 1953 being her senior year.

Ms. Young did not graduate. In a conversation, Dr. Milton Young, her son, indicated that the reason given by his mother for not completing her law degree was "due to 'good ole boy' attitudes regarding women and Blacks." She went on to have a prosperous career as an entrepreneur.


Frederick Jones  

Frederick Jones (1892-1961) held over 60 patents with most of them pertaining to refrigeration. His portable air conditioner was used in World War II to preserve medicine and blood serum.


Sarah Roberts barred from a white school in Boston 

On February 15, 1848, Sarah Roberts barred from a white school in Boston. Her father, Benjamin Roberts, filed the first school integration suit on her behalf.


Thurgood Marshall  

In 1967 President Johnson appoints Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court. Justice Marshall becomes the first black Supreme Court Justice.


Tuskegee Airmen

On February 19, 1942, the Army Air Corps' all African American 100th Pursuit Squadron, later designated a fighter squadron, was activated at Tuskegee Institute. The squadron served honorably in England and in other regions.


Violette N. Anderson  

Violette N. Anderson became the first Black woman lawyer admitted to practice before the Supreme Court on January 29, 1926.


Constance Baker Motley

In 1966, Motley became the first African-American woman appointed to the federal bench.


Grutter v. Bollinger and  Gratz v. Bollinger

In June 23, 2003, the Supreme Court issues decisions in two cases, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, which challenged the use of race in admissions policy at the University of Michigan's Law School and the undergraduate College of Literature, Science and the Arts. The Court upholds the concept of race as one of many factors in university admission, but rejects approaches that fail to examine each student's record on an individual basis.


Lani Guinier 

Lani Guinier became the first Black woman named as a tenured faculty member in the Harvard University Law School on January 26, 1998.  Her official starting date was July 1, 1998.


Gabrielle Kirk McDonald

In 1993, McDonald agreed to stand as the U.S. candidate for a judgeship on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The U.N. General Assembly considered 22 candidates for 11 positions. McDonald received the highest number of votes, becoming the sole American on the court and one of only two women.


15th Amendment

February 27th 1869: Congress adopted the 15th constitutional amendment, making it illegal for the US or any single government to deny or abridge the right to vote "on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude."


Richard T. Greener (1844-1922)

In 1870, Richard Theodore Greener became the first African-American to graduate from Harvard. Greener went on to become a lawyer.


Lewis H. Latimer (1848-1928)

While working at a patent law firm, Lewis Howard Latimer drafted the drawings for Alexander Graham Bell's telephone. He also patented a new method of producing carbon filaments for light bulbs