Better Late Than Never: 122 Years after His Death, Lawyer Joins the Allegheny County Bar!

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Better Late Than Never: 122 Years after His Death, Lawyer Joins the
Allegheny County Bar!
On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously admitted George Boyer Vashon to the bar, 153 years after his application was
turned down on racial grounds.




George Boyer Vashon was the first African-American lawyer                lawyer who discovered the fact of Vashon’s rejection in an old
of New York and had even made it to the U.S. Supreme                     journal of the state’s bar association, helped Nolan Atkinson,
Court in the post-Civil War era. However, Alleghany County               the great grandson of Vashon in his crusade.
Officials in Pennsylvania continued to deny his application for
enrolment to the bar on grounds of his racial origin. The State          When the Philadelphia Bar Association honored Nolan
Constitution of Pennsylvania at the time denied the freedom to           Atkinson for his work promoting diversity in law, he took
practice law to ‘’blacks.’’                                              the opportunity to dedicate the award to Vashon, his long-
                                                                         dead ancestor, and related the story of his rejection to the
Vashon had studied law at the Oberlin College in Ohio at a               audience.
time when many practicing lawyers had no formal education
in law. An extremely studious and erudite man, Vashon served             In a two-page order made on Tuesday, the bench recognized
in different posts in courts, government, and universities               that ‘’George B. Vashon possessed the necessary credentials,
throughout his life. He made his first application to join the           competency, and good character to practice law in
profession of law at the Allegheny County Bar and was turned             Pennsylvania in 1847.’’
down citing his Negro ancestry.
                                                                         That I guess is the spirit of America: The honesty to own up to
In a movement that feels like an epic saga of American                   mistakes and try to heal wounds as much as possible, - even if
history, Vashon’s great-grandson became a well-known                     one and a half century later.
Philadelphia attorney and led the fight to undo the historical
wrong visited upon Vashon. Wendel G. Freeland, a Pittsburgh




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Description: George Boyer Vashon was the first African-American lawyer of New York and had even made it to the U.S. Supreme Court in the post-Civil War era.
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