Black News and News Makers in History: Charlotte E. Ray

Black news from Pasadena - Black News and News Makers in History recognizes Charlotte E. Ray this week in Black history.Charlotte E. Ray (Fraim) was born January 13, 1850 in New York City, one of seven children, to Charlotte August (Burroughs) and Charles Bennett Ray.  Her father was a pastor at the Bethesda Congregational Church, an abolitionist, and an editor of the ‘Colored American’.  Both parents were conductors on the underground railroad.

Ray studied at the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington, D.C., and by 1869, at age 19, she was teaching at Howard University.  During the day, she taught children and one night a week she taught adults.  The rest of her evenings were spent attending Howard University Law College.

She proved to be an intelligent student and showed ingenuity when she applied to Howard's Law College as "C.E. Ray", to disguise her gender, knowing that women were reluctantly admitted to the law program.  She excelled at her law studies, especially in corporate law.  She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and received her law degree in 1872, passing her law exam that year.

Ray was the third woman, and the first Black woman, to become an attorney in the United States.  She was the first woman admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and the first black woman certified as an attorney in the United States.  

She also was the first woman permitted to argue cases in front of the Supreme Court in the capital. Ray opened her own law office that same year in Washington, D.C., specializing in commercial law.  Unfortunately, racial prejudices proved too strong, and she could not obtain enough legal business to maintain an active practice.  

By 1879, she returned to New York City, where she taught in the Brooklyn School System and was active with the National Association of Colored Women and the National Women’s Suffrage Association, working to help women, black and white, to gain equal rights to vote and work.  

About 1886, she married a man with the surname of Fraim and moved to Woodside on Long Island.  She died there at age 60 on January 4, 1911 from bronchitis.

Compiled from http://www.biography.com/articles/Charlotte-E.-Ray-11380, http://browngirlnextdoor.com/2011/02/02/charlotte-e-ray/ and http://womenshistory.about.com/od/aframer18631900/p/charlotte_ray.htm.