Aaron Albert Mossell

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Aaron Albert Mossell II (1863-1951) in 1888

Aaron Albert Mossell II (1863 - February 1, 1951) was the first African-American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the father of Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Aaron Albert Mossell I and Eliza Bowers with their surviving five children, c. 1905-1910. From left to right are: May Mossell; Alvarilla Mossell; Charles Mossell; Aaron Albert Mossell II; and Nathan Francis Mossell (1856-1946).[2]

Aaron Albert Mossell II was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1863, the youngest of six children. His parents had moved with their first three children from Maryland to Hamilton in the 1850s to escape the racial discrimination in the United States.

His father Aaron Albert Mossell I (born 1824), the grandson of slaves, became a brickmaker and in Hamilton went to school to learn to read and write. His mother Eliza Bowers was a free woman from Baltimore whose family had been deported to Trinidad when she was a child. She returned later and met Mossell. By 1870 the family had returned to the United States and lived in Lockport, New York.[2]

Aaron Mossell II graduated from Lincoln University. He earned his law degree at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1888 as the first African American to graduate.[3]

Mossell practiced law with two African-American partners in offices in the Witherspoon Building. He was solicitor of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital, where his brother Nathan was medical director. He was said to have defended some African-American men after the racial riots of 1917-1919 in Philadelphia.[2]

Marriage and family[edit]

Mossell married Mary Louisa Tanner in Philadelphia. They had three children.[2] Aaron Albert Tanner III (1893-1059) became a pharmacist in Philadelphia. Elizabeth Mossell Anderson (1894–1975) became Dean of Women at Virginia State College and later at Wilberforce University in Ohio. Sadie Tanner Mossell (1898–1985), also graduated from Penn and served as an editor of the Law Review.,[4] became a practicing lawyer, Assistant City Solicitor and activist on civil rights issues

Mossell separated from his wife and family when Sadie was about a year old, and the couple eventually divorced. Later he moved to Cardiff, Wales, where he was living by the 1930s and remained the rest of his life. He died on February 1, 1951.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sheryl P. Simons (January 5, 2006). "African American Firsts Highlight Rich Legacy". The Pennsylvania Gazette. Archived from the original on 13 December 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Aaron Albert Mossell (1863-1951)". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  3. ^ "The 18th Annual Sadie T. M. Alexander Commemorative Conference". Retrieved 2006-11-13. 
  4. ^ "The First Black President of the Harvard Law Review". The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (30): 22–25. Winter 2000–2001.