Cover image for Rebels in law : voices in history of Black women lawyers
Rebels in law : voices in history of Black women lawyers
Smith, J. Clay (John Clay), 1942-
Publication Information:
Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xviii, 323 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Introduction : law is no mystery to Black women / J. Clay Smith Jr. -- Law and its call to Black women -- The power of Black women -- Legal education, the legal academy, and the legal profession -- On presidents and judges -- Race, equality, justice, and freedom -- Crime and criminal justice -- International concerns.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
KF299.A35 R43 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Black women lawyers are not new to the practice of law or to leadership in the fight for justice and quality. Black women formally entered the practice of American law in 1872, the year that Charlotte E. Ray became the first black woman to graduate from an American law school. Rebels in Lawintroduces some of these women and through their own writing tells a compelling story about the little-known involvement of black women in law and politics. Beginning with a short essay written in 1897, the writing collected by J. Clay Smith, Jr., tells us how black women came to the practice of law, the challenges they faced as women and as blacks in making a place for themselves in the legal profession, their fight to become legal educators, and their efforts to encourage other black women and black men to come to the practice of law. The essays demonstrate the involvement of black women lawyers in important public issues of our time and show them addressing the sensitive subjects of race, equality, justice and freedom. Drawing together many writings that have never been published or have been published in obscure journals or newspapers, Rebels in Law is a groundbreaking study. In addition, it offers historical background information on each writer and on the history of black women lawyers. Providing an opportunity to study the origins of black women as professionals, community leaders, wives, mothers, and feminists, it will be of interest to scholars in the fields of law, history, political science, sociology, black studies and women's studies. J. Clay Smith, Jr., is Professor of Law, Howard University Law School. He was formerly a member of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dean of Howard University Law School, and President of the Washington Bar Association. He is the author of Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944 and numerous articles.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This book not only fills a gap in the history of American law--it undergirds contemporary efforts to form feminist jurisprudence and critical race theory. Presented are narratives by a wide army of black women lawyers--pioneers such as Lutie Lytle, Ollie May Cooper, and Pauli Murray, and present-day practitioners including Mary Francis Berry, Lani Guinier, and Marion Wright Edelman. While spanning over a century of legal work, these women are connected by their efforts to challenge, shape, and utilize the law by drawing on the dual experiences of being black and female. Smith (law, Howard Univ.) wisely allows these women to tell their own stories. He has assembled 62 articles (24 of them new here) and organized them under the topics of law's calling; the power of black women; legal education; presidents and judges; the themes of race, equality, justice, and freedom; criminal justice; and international concerns. Although the entries are individually interesting, the collection as a whole is riveting because it traces the transition of black women from being the objects of the law to actors in the law who have altered its practice and theory. Highly recommended for all collections. Includes useful appendixes and biographies of contributors. S. Behuniak; Le Moyne College