Macon Bolling Allen

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Macon Bolling Allen
Born Allen Macon Bolling
August 4, 1816
Indiana, US
Died June 11, 1894(1894-06-11) (aged 77)
Washington, D.C
Occupation Lawyer, Judge
Known for First African-American lawyer and Justice of the Peace
Spouse(s) Hannah Allen
Children Five

Macon Bolling Allen (born Allen Macon Bolling;[1] August 4, 1816 – June 11, 1894) was the first African American licensed to practice law in the United States, (Maine, 1844), and is believed to be the first African American to hold a judicial position, (Massachusetts, 1848). He moved to Charleston, South Carolina after the American Civil War to practice law and was elected to be a judge in the probate court of Charleston in 1874. Following the Reconstruction Era, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association.

Early life[edit]

Allen was born in Indiana in 1816.[1] He grew up a free man[1] He learned to read and write on his own and eventually landed his first a job as a schoolteacher,[1] where he further improved his reading and writing skills.[citation needed]


Legal career[edit]

Allen moved to Portland, Maine in the early 1840s and studied law and worked as a law clerk for General Samuel Fessenden, a local abolitionist and attorney.[1] After passing the Maine bar exam, he was granted his license to practice law in Maine on July 3, 1844.[1] He experienced difficulty finding legal work in Maine because whites were unwilling to hire a black attorney and few blacks lived in Maine.[1]

In 1845 he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, walking fifty miles to the bar exam test site because he could not afford transportation, and passing the exam despite his fatigue.[2] Allen and Robert Morris then opened the first black law office in the United States.[1] According to the authors of Sarah's Long Walk, however: "we have no direct knowledge that [Allen and Morris] ever met".[2]


Racial prejudice in Boston again kept Allen from making a living as a lawyer so he sought to become a judge to supplement his income.[2] After passing a rigorous qualifying exam for Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County, Massachusetts in 1848, Allen became the first African American in the United States to hold a judicial position—[1][3] despite not being considered a U.S. citizen under the Constitution at the time.[3]

Following the American Civil War Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina, to open a law office.[1] In 1873, he was appointed as a judge in the Inferior Court of Charleston and one year later was elected as probate judge for Charleston County, South Carolina.[1]

He continued to practice law until his death at age 78.[1]

Federal post[edit]

After Reconstruction, Allen moved to Washington, D.C., where he was employed as an attorney in 1873 for the Land and Improvement Association.[1]


While living in Boston, Allen met and married Hannah, with whom he ultimately had five sons.[1]


1816 Born in Indiana

1840 Moves to Portland, Maine[citation needed]

1844 Changes his name to Macon Bolling Allen

1844 Passes the bar in Maine on July 3

1845 In May, Allen walks 50 miles to take the bar exam in Worcester, MA (Kendrick, p. 6)

1845 Moves to Boston, Massachusetts, and is admitted to the bar on May 3

1846 Writes letter to The Liberator[citation needed]

1848 Becomes justice of the peace for Middlesex County

1868 Moves to Charleston, South Carolina

1872 Becomes a partner in William J. Whipper and Robert Brown[citation needed]

1873 Elected judge of the Inferior Court of Charleston in February

1874 Elected to the office of judge probate for Charleston County

1894 Dies in Washington, D.C. on October 10


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Manos, Nick. "Allen, Macon B.(1816-1894)". Black accessdate =February 16, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Kendrick, Stephen and Kendrick, Paul (2004). Sara's Long Walk The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. pp. 6–7. 
  3. ^ a b Flagg, Curtis Shaw (February 10, 2012). "10 people to know during black history month". 

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