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Allen, Macon Bolling

Allen, Macon Bolling

October 15, 1894

The lawyer A. Macon Bolling was born in Indiana. Little is known about Bolling's early life, but by the 1840s he had established himself as a businessman in Portland, Maine. In January 1844 Bolling had his name changed to Macon Bolling Allen by an act of the legislature in Massachusetts, where he was presumably a resident. With the assistance of white abolitionists, Allen first tried to gain admittance to the Maine bar in 1844 but was rejected on the grounds that he was not a United States citizen. However, the following year he passed the requisite exam and was admitted to the bar, becoming the first licensed African-American attorney in the United States.

Discouraged by the small black population in Maine, Allen chose to practice law in Boston. He was admitted to the Suffolk County bar on May 3, 1845, the first African American to become a member of the bar in Massachusetts. Although Allen opposed slavery, he clashed with New England abolitionists in 1846 when he refused to sign a pledge not to support the government in its war effort in Mexico. In 1847 Allen was appointed justice of the peace by Massachusetts Governor George N. Briggs. He was the first African American, after Wentworth Cheswill, of New Hampshire, to hold a judicial post. Allen's appointment was renewed in 1854, and he continued to practice law in Massachusetts until the advent of Reconstruction. In the late 1860s, Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina, to practice law and enter politics.

In 1868 Allen joined William J. Whipper and Robert Brown Elliot in establishing Whipper, Elliot, and Allen, the country's first black law firm. Like his colleagues, who were both members of the South Carolina legislature (Elliot also served in the U.S. Congress), Allen sought political office. His 1872 race for South Carolina secretary of state, however, was unsuccessful.

In February 1873 Allen was elected to fill out the term of the deceased George Lee, an African American elected to the judgeship of the Inferior Court of South Carolina in 1872. Allen was subsequently elected to the probate court, on which he served from 1876 to 1878. At the end of his term, Allen returned to his law practice in Charleston; little is known about his career after the late 1870s. Allen died in Washington, D.C.

See also Abolition; Whipper, William


Brown, Charles Sumner. "The Genesis of the Negro Lawyer in New England." The Negro History Bulletin (April 1959): 147152.

Smith, J. Clay, Jr. Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 18441944. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

louise p. maxwell (1996)

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