Macon Bolling Allen

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Macon Bolling Allen
Born Allen Macon Bolling
August 4, 1816
Indiana, U.S.
Died June 11, 1894(1894-06-11) (aged 77)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting place Washington, D.C.
Other names Allen Macon Bolling
Occupation Lawyer, judge
Known for First African-American lawyer and Justice of the Peace
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Hannah Allen
Children 5

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


Legal career

Allen moved to Portland, Maine in the early 1840s and studied law, working as a law clerk for General Samuel Fessenden, a local abolitionist and attorney.[1] After passing the 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] According to some sources, Allen and attorney Robert Morris in Boston opened the first black law office in the United States,[1] but the authors of Sarah's Long Walk say there is "no direct knowledge that [Allen and Morris] ever met",[2] nor is such a partnership mentioned in Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944.[3]


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][4] despite not being considered a U.S. citizen under the Constitution at the time.[4]

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]

Federal post

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

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


While living in Boston, Allen met and married his wife 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 Announces Boston law practice in several editions of The Liberator[5]

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 Manos, Nick. "Allen, Macon B.(1816-1894)". Retrieved February 16, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Kendrick, Stephen & 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. ^ Smith, Jr., J. Clay; Marshall, Thurgood (1999). Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 112–113. ISBN 0812216857.
  4. ^ a b Flagg, Curtis Shaw (February 10, 2012). "10 people to know during black history month".
  5. ^ Allen, Macon (March 6, 1846). "Macon B. Allen" (PDF). The Liberator. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
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