Macon Bolling Allen was born in 1816 in Indian, and moved to Maine in the early 1840s. In 1844, Allen became the first African American to be admitted to the Maine bar. He died in 1894 in Washington, D.C.
Born in Indiana in 1816, Macon Bolling Allen is best known as the initial African-American man to become licensed as a attorney in the United States. He at some point landed work as a schoolteacher. Going east, Allen relocated to Portland, Maine, in the early 1840s. There he studied law in the offices of two different attorneys, according to J. Clay Smith Jr.’s Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944. One of the lawyers who supported Allen was General Samuel Fessenden, a well-known abolitionist.
Allen had been rejected on his first attempt to become licensed in Maine simply because he was not a state citizen. The state bar also allowed a person to take an exam to become a lawyer there. In July 1844, Allen passed the exam and thus was the first licensed black lawyer in Maine.
Although he passed the bar in Maine, Allen by no means practiced law there. He moved to Massachusetts in 1845 and ended up being accepted for the bar there that very same year. Allen provides the distinction of being the very first African-American man to become licensed by the state of Massachusetts. In the late 1840s, he continued to break fresh ground when he was appointed the justice of the peace for Middlesex County. Allen is believed to have been the first African-American member of the country’s judiciary.
Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1868. At this time, the South was dealing with reconstruction following the Civil War. He was admitted to the bar in South Carolina and in the end earned another judicial post there. In the late 1870s, Allen relocated to Washington, D.C. He went to work for the Land and Improvement Association as an attorney. Allen died in Washington in October 1894, at the age of 78.