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Amos ‘n’ Andy and Black Lawyers

By Alton H. Maddox, Jr.

With respect to all historical events, it is always important to connect the dots. Whenever Blacks engage in an activity to uplift the race, whites have always had a response. Whites take philosophy seriously. To them, it is life or death. It is just that simple. Any advance for Blacks is a retreat for whites. There must at least be a Mexican standoff.

The first Black lawyer in the United States was Macon B. Allen. He was admitted to the Maine bar in 1844. The earliest Black lawyers were trained in white, apprenticeship programs. Law schools were rare during the nineteenth century. Black lawyers had to be questioned one-on-one bar examinations. These were public examinations. Every “i” had to be dotted and every “t” had to be crossed.

By 1930, Charles Hamilton Houston, resident vice-dean of Howard University Law School, was bent on securing accreditation for the law school. By 1931, the law school had been accredited by the American Bar Association and the Association of American Law Schools. It was the first Black law school to secure accreditation.

In the meantime, whites had crafted Amos ‘n’ Andy to belittle Black professionals and, particularly, Black attorneys who enjoy not only the attorney-client privilege but also the tools to become social engineers and to force changes in the judicial system, in particular, and society, in general. Hollywood had to demean Black lawyers. The lead character in Amos ‘n’ Andy was Aloysius Calhoun, the lawyer.

Despite myriad roadblocks including disciplinary committees, prosecutors and Hollywood, Black lawyers have been in the vanguard of eliminating legal obstacles for Blacks in numerous fields including education, criminal justice and reparations. These legal cases arose in the nineteenth century and are seminal cases for social change.

Most of these lawyers are unknown to Black attorneys today and Black law students. They may be familiar with the leading cases, however. No effort is being made in law schools to teach any students about the rich history of Black lawyers and high-profile legal struggles involving Blacks.

Too honest for the White Press and too black for much of today’s Black Press; bullet columnist Alton Maddox upsets the same people and status quo as he did as an uncompromising Defense Attorney. He is also a founding member of the Freedom Party. Contact him at c/o UAM P.O. BOX 35 BRONX, NY 10471

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