PA ‘Rights A Wrong’ With Honor For Snubbed Black Attorney


Nearly 150 years after he died, the abolitionist George Boyer Vashon was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar this week, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was denied a chance to practice law in Pennsylvania in 1847, and the state Supreme Court took the unprecedented step to admit Vashon posthumously “to right an ancient wrong,” said state Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille. Born in Carlisle in 1824, Vashon was the first black graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio and the first black lawyer licensed in New York state.

He left Pennsylvania after he was denied the ability to practice law there. He worked as a lawyer in New York, taught children in Haiti, and won Reconstruction-era professorships at Howard University in Washington and Alcorn State University in Mississippi. In 1868, he was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court – but denied again in Allegheny County when he reapplied that year. Throughout his life, he kept up a family tradition of abolitionist activities and fighting for the rights of blacks.

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